It has been a while in writing this blog again. I have been bogged down (it seemed) with other "stuff". My thoughts, whatever else I am engaged in, have inevitably wandered to yoga and missing time on my own mat. Feeling challenged by my own feelings of loss for my father, news about severe illness affecting friends, listening to the woes of others and coping with an increasingly busy time, has left me feeling rather depleted.
Life is like this. Sometimes it feels good and then others not so good. Waves of activity and movement and we have to learn to ride them. To go with the flow. Where Mind goes, energy flows. To live and breathe and enjoy peace of mind and enjoy life is a natural desire. When situations, people and demands on our time become too much for us to cope with, then we have to reach into our internal tool boxes and start using or learning to use those tools. It is not always easy to do on our own, but in the words of my teacher Jon Kabat Zin, we may not wish to engage in mindfulness medition and breath work, but there comes a time in our lives when it will be better for us if we do.
Yoga of course is a superb tonic to the body, as we co-ordinate the breath with movement and practice breath with stillness. Qi Gong, Tai Chi also offer this slowing down of our "systems' as we deepen our practice. The Breath is the only pathway to a more settled state of mind. The way in which we breathe will have an impact either positively or negatively and the result is felt in the body and mind. We think according to how we are using our neural anatomy and according to how we feel, and we feel the way we do sometimes as a result of these thoughts, and when we feel in a certain way emotionally, the bodily response kicks in and supports us by providing lots of thoughts that are concurrent with these feelings.
The answer to the "Chicken/Egg" question, which comes first, thought or feeling? is not a simple black or white answer. We are not seperate Body - Mind. We are life expressing itself through this particular Bodymind. We are Consciousness, we are 100 Trillion cells bound loosely together by molecular structures, we are Humans Being, we are Awareness and we are a result of what we think. The last bit brings it home. We sometimes need to repeat this several times for many years until we get this! Well I know that I have to remind myself of this important factor from time to time. In the past, (I call it BC....before cancer) when negative emotions such as resentment, anger, frsutration arose within me, sometimes I would project out these feelings looking for someone to blame. Now, (AC...after cancer) there is a recognition and heightened awareness of what my responsibilty is in any event in my life.
Practising and teaching Yoga of course is my mainstay, I cannot imagine how I would live and not cultivate my practcie and as always I actively encourage all people of all ages to take up yoga, principally for the breathing. After years of teaching people to manage stress, as a meditation teacher and grief and loss therapist, the changes I perceive in clients and students continues to be the real fruit of my work. The physical difference is so apparent too, as people become more relaxed and begin to glow from the inside, it is a joy for me to see. When we cultivate the breath through a pranayama/ mindfulness practice, we will get results very quickly.
When I teach Mindfulness the effects are profound and I am humbled constantly by the willingness of people to engage in this work. People who are in pain, suffering insomnia problems and all sorts of bodymind discomforts will definitely benefit from a mindfulness practice. This is where the yoga begins. Breathing and being still so that we can begin to notice what is happening in the bodymind.
The three tensions which usually affect us are:
Muscular Tension which is directly related to the body in terms of imbalance in the nervous system, endocrine, cardio-vascular systems. This is addressed immediately by long deep breathing, deep relaxation therapy and yoga/yoga nidra
Emotional Tension which is directly related to the duality within our core being. We have usually been raised to believe in a world of opposites. Love/hate, success/failure, happiness/unhappiness. There may be underlying anxiety/depression or feelings of disconnect. These tensions are more difficult to release. Particular pranic breathing, deep relaxation therapy and yoga nidra can begin to shift these old patterns that come up from the unconscious (90%) of the mind.
Mental tension which is a result of excessive mental activity. Throughout our life, ALL of our experiences are recorded by the bodymind and absorbed by our consciousness. At times, especially during particularly stressful times there can be upsets and problems associated with the build up of mental tensions which if held on to can damage the bodymind. Deepending our practice to include yoga nidra, IRest, and actively changing neural pathways begins to facilitate the release of these tensions and establish a better sense of peace and wellbeing.
All of the techniques or tools for own sense of health and wellbeing are within us. We may need a teacher to come along from time to time to show us the way forward, or how to use those tools. But we ALL have them and let's face it if you can do nothing else, you can breathe. Standing in line, deepen the breath. Waiting for news for the self or of a loved one, deepen the breath. Whatever we do in our daily lives and even in the event of the unusual and not so great situations we may find ourselves in, we can ALWAYS breathe.
When I began teaching yoga I was very body conscious. I was overweight, had had my body ripped apart and reconstructed and opened and closed like a clam shell by 10 consecutive surgeries. The medications made me feel more sick than well, I felt as if I was drowning, not waving. My daughter who was 16 at the time reacted with sheer terror at the thought of losing me and as all my family and friends lived in the UK, I was desperate. Now I do not recommend allowing Desperation to be your only motive for taking up "Breathing for a Change", but I would gently, with great Love for you as another human Being, suggest that you at least try for 10 minutes a day, or 5 if that's all you have time for to engage in the following breath exercise.
While still in bed tomorrow morning put your alarm on snooze for 5 minutes. Sit up be comfortable and begin your first cleansing breath. Simply put your internal gaze on to the area just below the navel and as you inhale begin to count the breath in to a count of four. Counting in this way; 1elephant, 2elephant, 3elephant, 4 elephant. This automatically slows down the inhale. Pause for 1elephant. Exhale the same as the inhale.
Give yourself this time. This breath begins to even out the hemispheres and helps us to tune in to ourselves. As we practice this for longer periods, we begin to notice thoughts arising and drifting through our consciousness and feelings twinges in the bodymind. After 5 minutes stretch, get out of bed stretch some more and begin your day with a calm and peaceful mindbody. Now, there is nothing to say that some event/person will not trigger a negative response in you, but remember this; if it was not already presetn within you, you could not possibly express this. If you find this happening, remove yourself either physically or close your eyes and remove yourself mentally and Breathe deeply for as long as you need to restore equilibrium.
Howard Kent, stated that the findings of the International Breath Institute were that 90% of the population do not breathe effectively enough and are using less than 50% of lung capacity. When we realise that 70% of the body's toxins are realeased through the breath, then we get an immediate understanding of how important our breathing (that we usually take for granted) is. Hypoxia, a result of insufficient oxygen in the tissues is linked with degenerative disease and emotional/mental instability.
During this time we are all facing uncertainty in many areas of our lives. Breathing differently, with attention, will make a difference. If you would like to know more about my workshops and classes for yoga/yoga nidra and Breathing for a Change, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I promise my website www.LittleYoga Room of Reston will be updated soon. I am also available at Beloved Yoga Reston, for semi private yoga nidra classes and general yoga with yoga nidra.