BREATHING FOR ENERGY

BREATHING FOR ENERGY

Breathing is largely subconscious and automatic. We don’t think about it. Our lungs take in air, our body absorbs oxygen, the oxygen is circulated throughout the body, and our body uses it to keep us going. It is simple and necessary.

What happens when we choose to become aware of our breath and change it from an automated breath to a conscious breath? What happens to our mind and our body?

Ever feel tired while you’re working on something and don’t want to stop working? There is evidence that focused, conscious breath (Pranayama) can change our psychophysiological state bringing more focus and energy to us. [1] Grooving in the flow, trying for a deadline, studying for a test, or preparing for an event can leave us feeling the need for a bubble of energy to help us reach our goal. Instead of grabbing coffee or an energy drink, experiment with your breath.

There is a way to create energy using conscious breathing techniques. A few similar techniques, Kapalbhati, Dynamic Breathing, Breath of Fire, or Bellows Breathing can bring rich oxygenation to the body and brain and renew energy without stimulants.

Experiment gif

Try the brief and easy technique below to create a surge of bright energy!

Breathing Exercise

  • Take a comfortable seat with enough room to hold your arms outstretched to your side and rotate from the waste side to side, like washing machine agitator.
  • Set a timer for 1 minute.
  • Place your fingertips on the top of your shoulders with your arms up and elbows out to your side.
  • Take 3 full, deep and purposeful belly breaths.
  • On the 3rd exhale, rotate your body at the waste to your right side.
  • Now, twist at the waist toward your left side and inhale while you are twisting.
  • Twist again to your right side and exhale while you are twisting, fully pushing the air out using your diaphragm.
  • Create rhythm and cadence in this movement. Moving from right to left in one second works well for me.
  • Each breath is full and purposeful.

That’s it! You’re 2 minutes from natural boost of energy!

3 Ways to Practice Mindfulness on Your Busiest Days

3 Ways to Practice Mindfulness on Your Busiest Days

Mindfulness and meditation. Two words that are used simultaneously and are separate in definition. It took me some time to understand the difference. Practicing mindfulness is not the same as meditating but, we can use mindfulness during meditation.

MINDFULNESS & MEDITATION

MINDFULNESS: Being mindful is the act of being engaged with the present moment.

MEDITATION: Meditation is a tool practiced daily to live a more mindful life.

One of the challenges I hear clients and students mention most is, “I don’t have enough time to practice meditation”. I understand this. We’ve all out-scheduled ourselves. We feel hurried and out of balance. Even on our busiest days, we can incorporate shorter practices so that we can lead a more mindful life.

1.

Can you spare 2 minutes to breathe?

I hope so because we’re doing it anyway! Two minutes is plenty of time to ground ourselves in the present moment using our breath. Maybe you can take two minutes in your car, in the grocery store parking lot, before you grab your bags, exit the car, and walk into the store. Here’s how:

  • Set the timer on your phone for two minutes.
  • Start your timer. (this is an important step in case you are tired and in jeopardy of falling asleep!)
  • Gently close your eyes or gaze in front of you.
  • The first tow counts is on inhale, the next two are one exhale.  Breathe as deeply as you can in those two seconds.  INHALE…one…two…EXHALE…one…two.
  • When the timer ends, take a few seconds to notice how you feel.  Do you notice a change?  How is your breathing?  Do you feel calmer?

There is so much evidence on how conscious breath benefits our minds and bodies and this quick practice os one of many ways to bring us to more mindful living.

2.

Infant eyes. 

Infants don’t know what “things” are yet. All they see are shapes, colors, light, texture, and movement. Try looking at the simplest object with infant eyes. Here’s how:

  • I’ll use a reusable water bottle as an example.  Answer these questions while observing the bottole.  Take two deep breaths before beginning. 
  • What shape is it?
  • What is the color?
  • Is it shiny? Is it dull?
  • Does it have a texture? Does it look pleasing to touch?
  • Is there a handle? Do you sense an urge or have a thought about reaching out or grabbing the handle or the cylinder?
  • Do we instinctively understand which containers are for water? Does someone teach us these types of containers are for liquid?

Becoming aware of such detail can ground us in the moment and reset our brains and you can do it anywhere with anything!

3.

Walking. Whenever. Wherever. However. 

When is the last time you thought about walking? It’s such an automatic movement. We don’t have to think about it, but if we do, we can create a mindfulness activity by observing each step. Try paying attention to your walking the next time you step out. Here’s how:

  • Let’s go back to the grocery store parking lot. You’ve exited your car and now you take your first step toward the entrance of the store. This is a great beginner distance for walking meditation. Yes, this is considered a meditation practice!
  • Notice the pressure of your foot on the ground through your shoe. (I hope you have shoes on…no shirt, no shoes, no service and all that!)
  • What shoes do you have on? Are they supportive? Do you have socks on? Can you feel those socks rubbing on your feet as you step forward? Do your feet feel hot or cold? Are your feet sweaty?
  • What movements are happening in your body as you shift from one foot to the other? Is your knee bending? Do your hips sway? Is there movement in your ankles? Your arms? Shoulders? Do your joints make noise? Do you feel your closes on your skin or maybe they flow with the breeze?
  • What is your mind doing while observing your walking? Are you hurried to get the shopping finished? Are you anticipating your next step?
  • What happens in your body and mind if you slow your pace? Speed up? Stop altogether?
  • Enter the store and you’re done! You did it! How do you feel now?

I love doing this in my home where I can walk myself silly. Try it! Walk in funny ways. TWIRL! Squat walk. Try teeny tiny steps. Observe what your mind does and how your body feels each step. Make it fun or use it in your regular schedule. It all counts. There is no wrong or right way to do this!

Have fun experimenting with these brief practices! If you find yourself wondering about a longer practice, check out my guided meditation page.

Observing My Own Perceptions

Observing My Own Perceptions

She greeted me with an outstretched hand and said, “Hi, Erica. Nice to meet you.” This was the third time we had met. She had given me two great massages weeks before. I told her, “We’ve met before, but I’m sure you meet so many people that it’s hard to keep track. No worries!” I shook her hand and walked with her through the door while she held my gaze.

She replied, “I’m so sorry. I am a brain tumor survivor and have been diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) [previously named Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)], so if one of my other personalities worked on you last week, I may not remember you. I try to be honest with my clients because I don’t want to make them feel bad because I can’t remember their names.”

She had a sweet smile on her face and a comfortable, confident spirit. Her demeanor was that of someone who had just told me she had a papercut. Because of her confidence, I felt comfortable. I would have been ok with the news regardless, however, her confidence took away any awkwardness I may have had initially.

She went on to tell me that having DID wasn’t a concern for her because she could still perform her job, but admitted that she had been teased in the past and that she would rather be honest with her clients in case they felt uncomfortable and wanted a different therapist. I put her at ease and let her know that I was unphased by the information.

After she closed the door and I began to undress, I found myself in wonder. I wondered if I would notice a difference in the massages weeks before. I discovered that she delivered a very similar massage and it was wonderful. The differences I remember were in her demeanor. This day, she was very soft, had a gentle gaze into my eyes as we spoke, carried a sweet smile on her face, and her voice sounded a bit higher in pitch compared to the last time I saw her. She continued to exude that kindness throughout our session. I also wondered if I was noticing all of these things because I was now aware of her diagnosis. 

During the two sessions I had with her weeks before, she was kind, but stoic, and didn’t chat as much. I remember distinctly that the same smile was not there. She mentioned “God” a couple of times in our last session in passing statements. I remember one distinctly; she said something like, “…and then we can trust that God will take care of the rest”. The context of our conversation was about life changes. It seemed an appropriate comment for someone with a Christian-based faith and I thought it a wise statement no matter what one’s faith or belief might be.

Massage therapists connect with people energetically and, in a way, that is uncommon. Receiving a massage is a very intimate exchange of energy. A massage therapist once told me that if her client was stressed or sad, the massage therapist had to prepare themselves in order to avoid absorbing that energy. They learn to put on an energetic shield and ground themselves, like Wonder Woman’s bracelets, and, at the same time, give good energy to the client. On the flip side, she told me that if she wasn’t at her best, clients could syphon her energy like vampires.

After I laid down on the massage table, I thought about her skill as a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) and how cool it was that her skill transferred to other personalities. I was in wonder of the human brain and how it takes care of us. I thought about fear and how she felt during and after the transitions from one personality to another and the possibility of not remembering chunks of time. I thought about her challenges to pursue answers for the symptoms she experienced prior to her diagnosis. I thought about how others may have treated her when she tried to describe what was happening to her. I thought about how scary the process might have been for her. I thought about time and how long she may have suffered before she could get the assistance she needed. I thought about the honesty and courage she must have demonstrated to the practitioners that helped her find an accurate diagnosis.

All of these thoughts, however, were of my own projections of the approaches I may have used in the same situation and my own considerations and strategies going through a similar process. But, maybe, instead, she approached it as a puzzle without fear and difficulty. Maybe she looked at it as a mountain to climb or a math problem to solve. I think about Spock from Star Trek: The Original Series. He used logic to answer all questions. Maybe that’s how she approached what she had experienced. I also thought about the neuroscientist, Jill Bolte Taylor, who had a stroke and was able to observe her bodily functions from the perspective of a scientist while the stroke was happening. Maybe that’s how my massage therapist observed her own body.

It is natural to have some fear and sadness when our minds or bodies change, but how can we grow from it?

As she expertly worked her magic, I used a breath exercise to become fully present and slipped deeply into the feeling of relaxation. I felt completely nurtured. That practice has allowed me to enjoy the experience much more and my body to respond deeply to the therapy. This day, that same practice provided me the space to receive; the gift of the encounter, her honesty and confidence, and my own thoughts without judgement.

We are all managing many joys and challenges in our daily lives and we all have different coping skills. The perception of what is difficult or scary or reasonable is different for every person. This encounter gave me the opportunity to learn and to question my perceptions and responses to life’s challenges and I am grateful for the discovery.

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