I’m not sure why I waited until day 3 for this one, because it’s a big one for me. This is one of the easiest ways to calm down, regardless of the situation. It’s amazing how many times I catch myself not breathing. I don’t just mean not taking a deep breath. I literally mean holding my breath. I’ve learned that many people who experience trauma in their lives have this reflex, and the majority of people, especially in the US, are not breathing as deeply as we have the capacity to. I personally get so caught up in what I’m doing that I don’t take time to sit and savor my breath. I mean, our breath really is this amazing thing that happens without us even thinking about that we also have the ability to manipulate that allows us to achieve different results in our lives. There are literally breathing techniques for anything. Google it if you don’t believe me. You can build fire in your body, increase energy, run better, birth babies better…you name it, it’s out there! Since we’re focusing here on peace and calm, though, we’re going to focus on a few techniques that I’ve learned to deal with anxiety. I would recommend giving all of them a try and if there’s one that seems to work better for you, stick with that one!
3 Part Yoga Breath
This is my go-to when I have a quiet spot and a little bit of time, and is especially yummy in a restorative yoga class. Basically, you separate your torso into three sections. The first part is the section from the pubic bone to the belly button. The second part is the section between your belly button and the base of the rib cage. The third part is the base of the rib cage up through the collarbones. Different teachers may teach this different ways, but this is the way I like to do it. When you’re inhaling, first focus on the bottom section and imagine that space filling up like a balloon. At first, you may just be pushing out with the muscles, but eventually, with practice, you will actually fill the lungs to the point that the diaphragm releases, presses down on the belly and you literally feel the breath filling that space. This takes practice, though, so be easy on yourself at the beginning. Take 3-5 long, deep breaths like this and then move up to the next part. Take 3-5 breaths in the second part and move on to the 3rd part, where, you guessed it, you’ll take another 3-5 breaths. After you’ve taken 3-5 breaths focusing on each of the parts separately, you’ll combine them all into one breath, feeling the breath fill all the way from the pubic bone up through the collarbone. Take several breaths just like this and take a minute to notice how you feel afterward!
I think my sister actually taught me this one! It’s a really good one for me, because it gives me two things to focus on – the breath and a visualization of a box. You literally visualize a box and imagine that you inhale up one side, hold across the top, exhale down the other side, and then hold across the bottom. The sides can be as long or short as you want them to be. Maybe start with each side being a 3 count, meaning count to three as you’re inhaling, hold for 1-2-3, exhale for 1-2-3, and then hold for 1-2-3. You can add a second each time you do it and notice how your capacity increases with practice.
Energetically speaking, the left side of your body is your feminine side, your lunar side, your nurturing side, and the right side is your masculine side, the solar side, the firey side. That said, each of your nostrils plays into this, too. If you want to increase your energy, you breathe in through the right nostril. To decrease energy, or for a calming, soothing breath, breathe through the left nostril. Your breath actually naturally alternates between the two sides throughout the day. With practice, you may become so in tune with the breath that you can actually notice which side is dominate at any given time. For the purposes of bringing more calm into your life for the holidays, though, we’re going to focus on left-nostril breathing. This is so easy to do, and so effective! Basically, use your right hand to close off your right nostril and take slow, deep inhales and exhales through your left nostril.
If you want to add a visualization to this, we actually have energy channels, called nadis, that run down the length of our spine. We have several, but there are three dominant ones, one on either side and one down the center line. So, with the visualization, you can imagine that your inhale is a ball of light that enters through the left nostril and travels down through the left nadi or ida nadi. As it travels down the ida nadi, it activates that nadi and lights it up. On the exhale, the ball of light travels back up the ida nadi and back out the left nostril. By doing this exercise, you’re actually clearing and activating the ida nadi, which activates the cooling, receptive energy in your body and invites a sense of calmness. Start with 3 minutes and build up from there!
Alternate Nostril Breathing
This is an overall balancing, cleansing breath that you can use anytime. It’s good for depression and anxiety, is centering and grounding, and can help with headaches! It’s very similar to Left-Nostril Breathing except you’re going to alternate between the two nostrils. So, using the right hand only, you’ll use the thumb to close off the right nostril and the index or ring finger to close off the left nostril. To begin, close off the right nostril with the thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Release the thumb and close off the left nostril with your index or ring finger to exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, release the finger, use the thumb to close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. A full cycle is ending with the exhale through the left nostril, so once you’ve done several cycles and feel complete, finish with an exhale from the left nostril.
If you would like to include a visualization with this, imagine that the inhale through the left nostril is a beautiful ball of light that travels down the left side of your spine. I like to imagine the light pooling down around my hips and my tailbone before the exhale takes the light up the right side of your spine and out the right nostril. The next inhale draws the light back into the right nostril and down the right side of your spine, with the exhale travelling up the left side of your spine and out the left nostril. Imagine that the light is clearing and activating both the ida (left) and pingala (right) nadis and clearing any stale energy that has pooled in the hips from sitting.
There are so many other breathing styles that help with anxiety and stress. If you have one that you love, please feel free to share it in the comments! I’ll be traveling today, so I may not get to share a video with you, but I will catch up when I arrive! Keep an eye on Facebook Live for updates!
Thank you for joining me on this adventure, and I’m so grateful that I can share these tools with you that I’ve learned. I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me in my lifetime!
I bless you with the peace and ease you need in this holiday season.