“Lengthening your exhale reminds you to pause. Deepening your inhale helps you feel into your next pause.”
I’ve written this post in response to the many emails I’ve received of late. It seems quite a few of you are feeling anxious, stressed and overwhelmed with what life has thrown your way today, this week, this month or this year. Yep, life can do that.
My starting place to all things stressful is to come back to the breath firstly – followed by 5 minutes or more of gentle therapeutic practice of restful, restorative yoga.
Restful yoga is my great love and the very foundation of my Slow Retreats. So you will notice in the therapeutic breathing meditations (below) two of them are enjoyed resting in a restorative yoga posture. The reason is simple. Give the body permission to surrender (stress, fatigue, worry and anxiousness) and you’ll be helping the mind and nervous system let go and relax.
It all starts with a therapeutic pause:
To take the edge of any form of stress, excess worry or anxiety it all starts with a pause. Whether its a 30 second or 5 minute pause. Remember to pause often.
Pausing creates space inside of you. Pausing turns your awareness away from the outside world (for a moment) and places more importance on your inside world.
Pause helps you let go, re-balance and take the edge off those stressful feelings and thoughts. Pausing is incredibly therapeutic.
Lengthening your exhale reminds you to pause. Inhaling deeply helps you feel into your next pause.
3 therapeutic breathing meditations:
We are all unique wonderful human beings so you may find you benefit from different breathing practices on different days. Play around with them. Feel into them and see how your body and mind responds.
These breathing meditations are all about taking the edge off anxiety or stress. Spend longer in these breathing practices and support a deeper release from anxiety and stress. Practice daily over a month and you’ll be feeling significant changes. Enjoy.
1 – Back breathing to dissolve fear:
Most of us breath into the front of our bodies. But how often do we actually breath into our side ribs or back of the body? Not often enough or never I’m guessing.
Trust me “side and back breathing” is incredibly therapeutic. Practice either sitting on your chair or in child’s pose pictured.
Imagine your lungs as a balloon. As you inhale the lungs evenly open, expand and fill. In all four directions. Belly swells and opens, side of your ribs push out away from the spine and back ribs gently expand. The muscles in your back start to let go and unwind, your spine has space, shoulder blades and shoulders un-clench and you may notice your posture start to improve.
Breathe into your kidneys:
A great way to encourage your breath to soak deeply into your back is to breathe into your kidneys. You can do this sitting in a chair or to deepen the experience resting in child’s pose pictured above.
1. Gently rest the palms of your hands over your kidneys. Left hand over left kidney, right hand over right kidney. This will make it easier to direct your awareness, energy and breath into your back.
2. Now inhale feeling your side ribs and back open up and expand. If you can, get a sense of the kidneys letting go and softening with each exhale. It’s a very subtle yet powerful sensation.
3. Continue breathing beyond your kidneys and into your whole back. Become aware as your hands slightly rise on each inhale.
Chinese medicine believes our kidneys hold fear. Bringing your awareness and breath into the kidneys will increase blood and energy flow and invite more spaciousness around your kidneys. Tight feeling kidneys may suggest you are clenching onto some old fear and/or have totally depleted your energy reserves. Yep, tight kidney’s are a sign of total exhaustion. Use a forceful exhale to release any stagnant energy and residual fear. Inhale deeply to invite more energy and life force back into your kidneys.
Know that whilst this may sound super easy, many of us may find breathing into our backs difficult. If you don’t feel much movement at the moment that’s Ok, be patient, eventually the breath will soak deeper and deeper into your body.
2 – Crocodile pose for stomach stress:
“By mindfully breathing for ten minutes a day, in as little as 8 weeks you strengthen the part of the prefrontal cortex involved in generating positive feelings and diminish the part that generates negative ones” – Richard Davidson PhD.
I tend to hold stress in my stomach so I happen to find crocoidile pose (laying on your belly and breathing into your heart, lungs, tummy and pelvic area) incredibly therapeutic. Whilst it may look divinely simple never underestimate its deeply restorative benefits.
Crocodile pose calms the mind, soothes the nervous system and supports you in feeling safe- so you can easily release tummy anxiousness, butterfly’s and stress so you can let go and then relax the whole front part of your body. Guaranteed you feel lighter afterwards. Like a weight that’s been lifted from your body.
If you are unable to lay on the floor you can still benefit by folding your arms on the desk or table in front of you and resting your head on your folded arms. An awesome therapeutic pause.
Lay down on your tummy, rest your forehead on folded arms, close your eyes and follow your breath. As you breath think calmer, slower, deeper, calmer, slower, deeper. The rest will happen automatically.
It’s important there is no effort or strain when resting in crocodile pose. Your body must feel totally comfortable.
3 – The 27 breath therapeutic pause:
When you don’t have the luxury of resting on the floor then the 27 breath meditation is the perfect practice to give yourself a little breathing space. It will help take the edge off and create a little space in your head, around your heart and from the world around you.
If you have 1 minute to spare (tick), can breath (tick) and can count (tick) then you are able to receive the benefits from this very simple yet relaxing breath meditation. Close your eyes if you can but if that’s not possible simply counting the breath in your minds eye is fine.
Bring your full awareness to your breath and to the counting. The counting keeps your attention on the breath (stops your mind from wandering) effectively creating a helpful therapeutic pause.
Inhale 27, exhale 26, inhale 25 exhale 24, inhale 23, exhale 22, inhale 21, exhale 20, inhale 19, exhale 18, inhale 17, exhale 16, etc.
Breath work matters. It matters a lot. If you are interested there is a wonderful 2 minute talk given by the awesome Dr. Andrew Weil. Click here to watch.
More help for anxiety and stress:
Release the day beautiful candle gazing meditation
Evening ritual of softening – a guided meditation
Alternate nostril breathing – your nose is directly linked to your brain and nervous system. In times of emotional distress and upset, a few rounds of mindful nostril breathing will soften the intensity of over reactive emotional states.
12 ways to release muscle tension on the spot: Stress simply distracts the body from healing itself. Don’t let stress be the number one focus for your mind and body.
A quiet mind ritual – deeply relaxing restorative yoga meditation