If you already practice yoga, then you will be familiar with the importance of breathing in an out through the nose, for calming the mind and optimising oxygen intake throughout the body. Yes, we breathe out through the mouth sometimes in yoga, but the essence of the movement practice and the seated meditation is controlled nasal breathing.
Breathing steady and slow in and out through the nose helps increase the amount of oxygen delivered to our muscles and organs, including the heart and brain. The slow steady breath calms us down, or to paraphrase the yoga sutras of Patanjali: we still the fluctuations of the mind, and we increase our focus and attention.
Nasal breathing as opposed to mouth breathing, offers the following benefits:
The nose filters, warms and moistens the air before it reaches the lungs.
Breathing in and out through the nose helps us to take fuller and deeper breaths which stimulates the lower lungs to distribute greater amounts of oxygen throughout the body.
The nasal passage releases nitric oxide, nitric oxide expands the blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow, and oxygen release.
Breathing in and out through the nose activates the parasympathetic nervous system, in particular the vagus nerve, which triggers the relaxation response.
Pay attention to how you breathe, if you breathe in and out through the mouth, or in through the nose and out through the mouth, try nasal breathing. It could take some time for you to get used to this, but it is well worth the benefits.
If you would like to understand more about nasal breathing in person, or video call, then whatsapp / call (0623598162) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I would be delighted to help.
We operate along gradations of I like it / I don’t like it, seeking pleasure, avoiding pain. This impacts our mood and our interactions. Our mind is always quick to judge ourselves and others and this influences our behaviour and our sense of being. Our brains can’t help producing states of desire and aversion regardless of our intentions. This can happen right this moment we can either be in some kind of neutral state, or somewhere along the I like it / I don’t like it spectrum.
Wherever we are there is an element of story telling, we create past, present and future narratives in our minds and most of the time it is fiction. We are the protagonist of our own continuous unfolding monologue, and we must forever defend our sense of self. We are often wanting something else, not wanting what we already have, expecting something more from others and being disappointed when our expectations are not met. We didn’t like what someone said so we let it stoke a fire in us, and we can invent a story as to how this plays out if it were to happen again.
How can we can let go of this often defensive attachment to self during our day to day life? This is no easy task and takes commitment and time to tune into what is going on in our mind and our bodies, observing, noticing, reflecting, and letting go. We must be mindful not to be too harsh with ourselves, but to adopt an attitude of kindness as we cultivate a more balanced way to be.
It is a continuous ebb and flow as we let go of the narrow world of judgement and thereby slowly loosen the grip on our own self importance.
Imagine doing something that you enjoy and the more you do it the more you get better at it, and it helps you reach heights that you never thought possible? (And no, it’s not parachuting!).
Cultivating a regular yoga and meditation practice can prepare
you for anything. That sounds like quite a claim but it’s true. If you can achieve
a natural resting state of equanimity and emotional resilience then you are pretty
much prepared for whatever comes your way.
I know because I speak from experience. A recent example is from early 2019 where I had to have an operation and undergo surgery. It is without doubt that my yoga and meditation practice helped me physically and mentally, pre and post surgery. The many years of yoga and mindfulness helped create the resilience necessary to face difficult times. Since my operation I feel that there has been a radical shift in my nervous system and consciousness, and my body has an unprecedented degree of suppleness and energy. This is thanks to the operation itself but also to my regular practice of meditation and breathing work, all part of yoga.
Mindfulness research is showing how meditation can benefit
physical health as well as mental well being and the best way to know this is
to experience it for yourself.
Yoga unites the mind and the body through the breath, and that is an almost literal translation of the word. It also helps us in times of difficulty. When I did the 8 week MBCT course some years ago, the trainer said that sustained meditation practice was like weaving your own parachute, so that when the time comes when you need all the help you can muster, your parachute is ready. As Mark Williams and Danny Penman wrote in ‘Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World’, “there’s no point in doing this when we’re falling headlong towards destruction. We have to weave our parachute every day so that it’s always there to hold us in an emergency.”
Here are two videos, one is a short guided meditation, the other one is a body scan. Both can help you in your journey to weave your own parachute:
When the mind and body are in balance it is like the ever
present clear blue sky, a vast spaciousness of non-reactivity. What clouds and
dulls the mind is negative mental states along the spectrum of I like it, I
don’t like it. There is a craving for something or a sense of clinging to the
view that if only things were different then life would be better.
Our day to day life is always in relationship to, or in relationship with, whether we are alone or with others, it is always in the plane of relating. It is how we comport to situations, people, things, that determines whether we are in balance or not. When we feel ill at ease, be it mildly or more pronounced we will feel it as tightness in the body and mind, reflected in our mental, verbal and bodily actions.
The very early sign of liking or disliking as a mental state
is a feeling sensation in the body. To understand this and start to transform
it is no easy task. It does however begin with awareness of that early reactive
tone in the body and the voice of your mind. If we know a situation or
interaction triggers us to behave in a certain way we can start to catch
ourselves before we spill over into the habitual reaction. We can pause for a
moment and actively choose to respond differently.
It is part of being human to be reactive and have emotions
like anger, fear or jealousy, BUT we can modify or reduce the volume of these
reactive states, through repeated self observation, reflection and a caring understanding
attitude. Beneath all of this is the vast clear non reactive body / mind
We all have our positive and negative habit energies, cultivated over the course of our lives, a result of conditions and circumstances over time.
If we are aware of our negative habit energies or behaviours, then we might choose to do something about them, especially if we start to become aware of the detrimental impact on ourselves and those we interact with. The start of the process is befriending the self and becoming aware of how we act in the world, getting to know who we are from the inside out, stepping back and viewing this world of I, Me and Mine.
One way to begin is by bringing attention to the breath, even for a moment, this will set the stage for facing that moment, and the next one with greater clarity. It creates a small window to tune into the body and the mind, sensing what’s going on.
It takes practice to catch our reactions as they are emerging. Through ongoing meditation and mindfulness practice we start to lessen the hold that repetitive thought patterns can have on the mind and the body. Over time, through self observation, reflection, and self understanding, we can affect change, bit by bit, until the grip of the negative habit energy starts to loosen itself. Using the breath as an anchor in difficult moments we can create space so that instead of amplifying our reaction we can pause and choose how to respond.
The negative habit energy will not disappear completely, but overtime will reduce in volume.
As Aristotle said, we are what we repeatedly do, so let’s make the time and the effort to become the better version of ourselves.
The conditioned modality we live in is in our heads. We live in our heads almost all of the time apart from when pain or tension in the body calls us to respond. When we do respond the response is often a head based reaction, a verbal reaction. We often treat our body as if it were separate from the head.
Every moment thoughts are vying for our attention. It is as if our head is hovering 30 cm in front of us as we proceed through the day: planning, thinking, creating narratives, projecting forward. The head leads, the body follows.
We live in a back and forth relationship with past based thinking and future based thinking, only occasionally do we feel and see the present as a tiny slit of light in a dark room. That light is integration, the head is back on the neck, integrated with the body and interconnected with our surroundings. We are in felt relationship with the self and the world around us.
Using the breath as an anchor, feeling the breath deep in the lowest part of the belly, we can cultivate befriending the self and bring the head back to the body. As we practice yoga and mindfulness our mind, heart, and belly come into balance and harmony. There is a feeling of space and freedom within and in relationship to our environment and our interactions.