21 Day Challenge – Day 4 – Every Breath You Take

437Today I feel strong. As I walk to the front of my mat in yoga class I feel steady and sure. I have my breath.

Prana. Chi. Life force.

So little is taught about breathing. I guess since it just sort of happens we don’t really pay much attention to it. Until we can’t breathe “normally” anymore. Unless we grew up with asthma or allergies. But mostly it’s just there.

If we do pay attention to the breath we can change every system in the body. We can balance the mind, stoke digestive fires, cleanse the blood and overall awaken the physical form.

There was an Ayurveda study done in India on obese subjects. One group was placed on a diet specifically for their individual constitution. The other group was given pranayama – a specific breath to be done a requisite number of times – 30 minutes before each meal.

The group that deliberately breathed lost significant amounts of weight.

A personal friend of mine has been experimenting with the same phenomenon. He has been practicing various forms of pranayama throughout the day – occasionally switching it up to see what difference it makes. He continues to eat and imbibe as always, his activity level has remained the same, and he has lost weight. He also reports an overall sense of well-being.

The breath he uses is different than the one used in the study. The amount of time he breathes consciously differs as well. But the results are very similar.

Pranayama is one of the eight limbs of yoga. It’s easily overlooked outside of the classroom. It’s often forgotten inside the classroom. And it’s practically non-existent in daily life as a practice.

Prana is life force, like Chi in Chinese medicine, it works with the breath, but it is not the breath. Prana is in every living thing. We receive prana from the food we eat, the sun, the air and certainly from breathing. Throughout most days we are leaking prana, giving it away to negative thoughts, anger, jealously. We are squandering Life Force. Losing. Life. Force.

All one has to do to get it back is breathe. Consciously.

Here is the breath used in the Ayurveda study. Try it. Twice a day. 5 minutes each time. Start there. Not for weight loss – although that may be a happy side effect – but for Life.

Naadhi Shodhana – alternate nostril breathing.

Vishnu mudra rightMake a fist with the right hand. Extend the thumb and last two fingers. The thumb and fingers rest lightly on the nose, just above the nostrils so very little pressure or movement is needed to close each side.

 

Take a deep breath in through the nose. Close the right nostril with the thumb.

Exhale through the left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril. Close the left nostril.

Exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril. Close the right nostril.

Continue with this process for 5 minutes. Finish by exhaling through the right nostril. Place both hands in the lap, close the eyes briefly – maybe meditate for five minutes – then return to your normal routine.

Other ways to increase life force:

– Eat a mostly organic, plant based diet

– Exercise with intention and presence

– Be present. Thoughts of the future or past are normal, but too much time spent in either place robs you of precious life force than can be used right now.

– Cultivate compassion. Anger, jealously, regret, hate all deplete prana. When you catch yourself enveloped in any of these strong emotions, breathe.

Just breathe. Consciously. Often. Inhale gratitude. Exhale love.

 

21 Day Body Love Challenge – Breathe Easy

Breathe

I wanted to talk about the systems of the body, but trying to get people excited about their periods and bowel movements had my own nose wrinkled. So instead, we’ll talk about a few key organs in these last days of the challenge.

Today we’ll breathe a little life into the lungs.

Most people, especially in this fast-paced society, do not breathe enough and do not breathe well. We hold our breath when we think, when what we really need is oxygen in the brain to fire up the neurons. We breathe in the upper lobes of our lungs most of the time which keeps us in stress response making it harder to relax. If not impossible.

On the contrary, when we breathe deeply into the belly we are compressing our internal organs and as we exhale, freshly oxygenated blood rushes back into the organs. Refreshing them if you will.

The quickest way to change your emotional, mental, or physical state is to change the breath. Did you read that? If you’re freaking out, change your breath. If you’re upset or sad, change your breath. If you’re tired, change your breath. It’s that simple.

The breath and the lungs are also closely connected to the heart chakra so breathing fully and deeply can help dislodge some of that energetic detritus, moving it up and out. Perhaps that’s why when we engage in pranayama or breathing practices we feel lighter and calmer.

I have made my own breath my friend. Not that it wasn’t before, it was just more of a boarder. Now it works for me. It soothes me in traffic, entertains me when someone is telling me the same story for the tenth time, helps me fall asleep and lets me dance longer.

The next time someone says, “Take a deep breath,” just do it. It will change everything.

“What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life.” – Emil Brunner