Today I opened the book Miracles Now by Gabrielle Bernstein and flipped to #30 Backpack Meditation. The reason I love this book is because it introduces bite size tools I can use daily without having to sort & sift through the big books of yoga I have purchased over the years. The meditations she presents are for when you are freaking out, when you are stressed and when you need to recharge. Fast & easy to find and she has videos when I am not sure if I am doing something right.
Miracle Message #30 "If my environment dictates my mood, then my life will feel like a roller coaster. The way to steady ground is through my breath."
I feel like I have been on a roller coaster for years. I am ready to get off, like now. It is so easy for me to forget my breath and how it can take me from crazy tense to "I can handle this."
The first thing I added to my life to become steady was meditation.
I lean towards an active practice which means, that what I do allows me to feel control in my experience. I like a Mantra to think on when I meditate which is why I have really enjoyed the 21 Day Meditation Programs Deepak & Oprah have been putting together for the last year or so. Whenever I find myself getting attached to thoughts again, I can repeat the Mantra they have presented and focus on saying that silently in my head. I am certain there will be a day when I will have enough practice under my belt that I don't need to feel control, but until that day, there is no shame in using active practice tools.
My monkey brain gets the best of me quite regularly. I wish I could say that I only pull out the elephant gun tools once a week or so, but the reality is that I added Affirmations to use like Mantra's to snap me back into the moment.
The second active tool I have learned is to add affirmations to my day.
Some days I start my day writing on a sticky note, "I surrender this problem/situation so that it can flow as it should." or "I surrender my day to the Universe/God." or "I surrender my obsessive thoughts about (insert any number of stressors)." I like the sticky note that travels with me as it reminds me that I have already let the stress go.
The beautiful thing about an affirmation is that in that awful moment when stress knocks me to my knees, and I can't suck in air or think because I am so overwhelmed, I can simply just stay down on my knees, lift my head and whisper "I surrender."
Then I was told by a yoga teacher I don't breathe correctly. I didn't learn this in school, nor did my parents teach me the importance of breathing. It was just assumed that I had mastered this skill. It seems I hold my breath and when I do bother to take the time to breath it is all upper chest, not belly breathing. Anxious people breathe shallow small chest breaths. Relaxed people expand their belly's out and keep their breath low. I am an anxious person when I don't pay attention to my breath.
The third active tool I have learned is breathing techniques. Most of the yoga classes I have taken over the years focused on the stretching and poses. While I would feel relaxed and in touch with my body immediately after a class, I could not take that feeling with me.
My favorite go to breath is The 8 Stroke Breath for Stress Release: 8 breaths in (like 8 sniffles) to one breath out (push all out), all just your nose. Repeat this for 1 minute if that is all you have or 11 minutes. The hand mudra is pointer finger & thumb together and relaxed on your knees while you sit in easy pose. You can do this anywhere, although be prepared for someone to offer tissues for you to blow your nose.
This really is an easy quick way to reconnect to your breath. Why is that important? Stressful, shallow breathing sets your body into a state of reaction and fear and starts your stress response.
Restful, relaxed breathing changes the chemicals released into your body so you aren't flooding our system with fight or flight chemicals which over prolonged periods hurt your body.
My favorite three Get Me Off the Roller Coaster Breaths are:
If you are new to the breathing start practicing every day when you aren't feeling stressed, like when you are doing dishes or cooking to get comfortable with them. If you drive during rush hours, it takes just a moment to notice if your breathing is up in your chest or down in your belly. Each time you notice it is in your chest, drop it down and expand your belly.
Since my work environment (property management) & my personal life (divorced parent) is so charged with daily drama & intrigue & monumental bloody battles it is very important that I have an active program in place to help me ground throughout the day so I am not whipped around on those too tall, too fast, so scary, wish I had a 5 point harness to keep me from falling out roller coaster rides.
These three tools are keeping me as sane as is possible!
Other resources for Yoga Breathing: