Breath magic in 3 minutes
You're about to kick off in a vitally important sports game, it's the same day as a test or exam, you have spent days preparing for a presentation to be delivered in the next 24 hours, or, maybe you are anxious about your life everyday.
The palms are sweating, you keep fidgeting, you can't sleep and you have knots in your stomach. A very normal and physical phenomenon when the pressure is on and fearful thoughts occupy our minds.
This is called the Fight or flight reaction.
The body is faced with a fear of some sort, whether it is a real threat or a perceived one. It gets ready to take flight, or face up and fight. An evolutionary reaction fostered over millions of years that kept our ancestors alive when faced with sabre toothed tigers.
The eyes widen, blood rushes from the body's centre to the extremities, digestion shuts down, adrenaline courses through our veins, our skin pores open, sweating begins, and our nervous system is placed on high alert. we are ready for action.
While this is a wondrous process of the human body when we need it, back in the day it was called upon sporadically. Today, western lifestyles keep this built in high alert system switched on constantly.
The alarm jolts us from our sleep, we rush to make the train or beat the traffic, the day is full of meetings & each one has an action outcome with a deadline, lunch is skipped with your head in the screen and you plough through, colleagues/family or friends might not see eye to eye, money and finances barely cover the life you're accustomed to, your life hasn't found its purpose yet, you work so hard that family time is limited and the balance just isn't right.......... Life is relentless.
How do we ordinarily cope?
Alcohol? Anxiety tablets? Outbursts of rage? Panic? The inner conversation you have with yourself to 'stop being weak' and 'what will people think of me if I don;t show calm and resolve'?
Now, there may be some lifestyle factors that could be worked on so our environment is not a pressure cooker, but, what if i told you, you carry around with you one of the most powerful 'instant magic bullets' to create deep inner calm and turn on what's called the Rest and Digest response instead? Would you want such control? Do you want this in your wellbeing tool box?
I was first shown this while studying Ayurveda some 7 years ago (an ancient Indian holistic medical system) & have used it ever since, everyday. It works every time!
The process is so simple, you'll be tempted to dismiss it as voodoo or too fluffy for us tough and rough humans. Give me 3 minutes to prove it, & you'll see it's simple science and technique. It draws upon the body's own systems to hack in to the Fight or Flight reaction.
Please understand that this 'on edge' reaction takes places deep within the subconscious. That means it happens without you even thinking about it. Get told you've lost your job, and your heart will beat out of your chest & emotion will rush over you before you know what has even happened.
It turns out that one of our natural subconscious systems (e.g. systems we don't think about, like heart beating or digestion) can be taken over consciously and hijack this inner tension.
Quickly turn your attention to your breathe right now. Is your mouth open? Are you holding your breathe? Is it from your chest? Is it rising and falling quickly? If so, the likelihood is that you are in some degree of stress that you didn't realise. When we are in a degree of inner tension, our breathe is shallow, usually from the mouth, and from the chest region.
In a deep state of relaxation it is from much lower down, near the diaphragm (or belly if we aren't too particular), from the nose, and slow.
So here is the good news!!! We can focus on achieving calm with our breathe, even for such a short time, and directly dial down the nervous system like a dimmer switch, resulting in slower heart rate, resumption of digestive activity, muscle relaxation, and blood flowing back to it's core responsibilities.
That's right, the breathe is the most awesome nervous system hijack method ...... and it's Free :)
After a bit of science, still not sure huh?? Okay, try this.
Sit down in a comfortable position with no sound distraction. Close your eye's.
Set up a quiet 1 minute timer.
- Without trying to control your breathe at all. Start the timer, keep your eyes closed and simply count how many natural breathes you take. Make a mental note.
- Now, you will breathe for another minute, but this time, you will breathe in as slowly and as deeply as you can, preferably through the nose if you can, and focus on breathing from the belly. As you breathe in, your belly pushes out. On the out breathe, you will breathe out slowly, deeply and with control. Nose or mouth is fine. As you breathe out, your belly will draw back in to your body. Do this now but there is no need to count. Simply, focus on slow, long, deep breathes.
- Repeat step 1 & count how many breathes you now naturally take without looking to interfere or control it at all. Simply count the breathes naturally happening.
How did you go?
Did you notice a marked reduction in the amount of breathes you took the second time around?
This was a complete revelation to me. A way to use my own body and its natural systems to impact how i felt. A method i could draw upon at any time to switch to a state of calm.
Pranayama, the process of breathe control in Yoga, is a huge topic. The many different techniques can be used to stimulate, meditate,improve digestion and increase alertness when needed.
As a starter, I would promote starting off with just 5 minutes per day, where by you close your eyes and follow step 2 as described above. This can then increase in time as your attention and focus improve.
My teacher would say 'Have a long Breathe, you'll have a long life'. A teaching I know fully understand.
I hope it adds some great value to you too.
James @ Duel