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.

 

Make Love, Not Gossip

path IMG_3984Today on Facebook I read a post that deflated me. It wasn’t sad, no animals were harmed and it wasn’t full of needless expletives. But it spoke of an epidemic of ignorance of who we truly are that is so pervasive in our society that I had to respond to it. Only I didn’t. Not directly. Instead I posted my thoughts about it on my own newsfeed without identifying the source or any details.

I wanted to respond but I knew it would only expand the negativity, poking the bear, rather than disarming the situation or change anything for the better.

The short of it is this: There was a video of a celebrity doing something  positive, but because this celebrity is controversial all the remarks on this person’s post were derogatory and downright mean. They were personally attacking someone they didn’t even know personally.

It may be fun and even feel a little powerful, if you can recruit others in a gossip fest, but in the end it is waste of precious life force. Making it the most harmful and hurtful to the ones gossiping.

Not that I haven’t done this. Hasn’t everyone? What I believe we’re doing is recognizing our perceived failings in another and directing our self-loathing outward as if that will rid us of it. At our lowest points, we draw conclusions and make assumptions about others all in the service of our own fragile egos, trying to elevate our self-esteem by pointing out the shortcomings of another. They are the mirror for our fear that we are not enough.

What if every time we caught ourselves in a verbal eye roll, or hissing like a snake on our keyboards or phone, we just stopped? What if we directed all that venom at ourselves? Because that’s what we’re really doing. That celebrity will feel none of that acrimony, yet those sending daggers feel EVERY bit of it.

We have the option and the power to  transmute that energy into something beautiful and real. Re-channel it. Do some art. Write in your journal. Take a walk in nature. Breathe. Look at the sky.

What would happen, do you think, if all the news media began reporting on charitable organizations and those being helped? What if celebrity magazines only photographed and spotlighted companies and individuals, and yes, celebrities making a difference in their city, town or country? What if the newspaper was full of stories about people helping other people, kittens and dogs being rescued or rescuing, or illustrations on the power of love?

Idealistic? Of course. Unrealistic? No.

I don’t think we are here to tear each other down – even from a distance – in order to lift ourselves up. It doesn’t work. We are meant to uplift one another, to make things better for each other. There is a quote, or prayer, really, by Marianne Williamson that I have always loved, “Help me remember that my job is to love the world back to health.”

How our choices and words might be so different if that were our job description.