Welcome back and thank you for visiting and trusting me with your time and energy. I know how busy you are and from talking with other yoga students and reading your emails, many of you are going through hard times. Time is precious and you’re so busy taking care of “everything and everyone” that you forget what it’s like to be happy and to take care of yourself. So, thank you for taking time out to pause and read this post.
In today’s post, which is slightly longer than usual and is inspired by a challenge set by a blog post I read by Eben Pagan, I would like to return to our theme of inner peace and how you can reduce stress, relax and clean your mind and feel happier, simply by learning how to breathe correctly and meditate.
As I read your emails and listen to your conversations it seems as if “everyone” is dealing with some type of loss or life challenge – divorce, bereavement, anxiety about job security and/or redundancies; top of the list seems to be the conflict you feel between caring for your elderly parents as well as looking after your family and as a result you have little or no energy to focus and be productive at work. It seems as if there just aren’t enough hours in the day or enough of you to go around.
And on top of that, when you look at the money coming into your household and factor in the high cost of living and paying for everyday daily essentials-such as fuel, clothes, lunch, groceries, mortgage, car maintenance and transport cost, it’s no wonder you feel tired and exhausted and don’t have any energy left to take care of yourself.
In fact, most of my regular yoga students come to yoga as a way to relax, to have a space away from the “maddening crowds” where they can let go of tension, and experience a sense of peace and calm and lightness in their minds and body.
Life Can Be Hard When You Are Tired And Stressed
The pace of life and demands on your time is crazy. It is too easy to loose your centre and get swept away rushing around to help everyone else. As you intuitively know, the more you care for yourself, the happier you are. Yet trying to keep on top of the housework, worrying whether your children are happy and feeling guilty that you were too tired to phone your mum, you don’t have the time and energy left for yourself. And this is where learning how to meditate gives you the space and quiet you crave to breathe, rest and reflect.
Meditation Helps You To
1. Reduce Stress and Calm and Clean Your Mind
Everyone has a story going on, something you are not happy about and wish you could change. When you meditate your mind is cleared of all the clutter going on inside your head. You feel different, more at ease and aware of what is going on in your body and with this awareness leads to a corresponding shift in how you view your problems and how you can reduce emotional pain and tension in your body.
Try This Simple Body Awareness Exercise
1. Just for one minute, become aware of your feet. Take a look at your feet and notice the way your feet are positioned. Are they flat of the floor? Are both feet pointing in the same direction, or are you leaning to one side, legs crossed, feet tucked around the chair leg, or even tucked up beside you as you sit and read this post on your settee.
2. Next, take a moment now to place both feet flat on the floor, toes pointing forwards. Make sure the weight is evenly distributed on both feet.
3. Next wiggle and curl and stretch your toes; really stretch and create space between each toe.
4. Next raise your right foot a few inches off the floor and keep your left foot flat on the floor.
5. Make 5-7 small circles in both directions with the right foot. Stretch and point your toes away from your knees and then point your toes towards your knees as you push your heel away from you. Do this for a few times then finally shake your right foot and return your foot to the floor.
6. Take a deep breath in and slowly breathe out; notice what you notice about how your right foot feels in relation to your left foot. Can you feel a difference between the two feet? What do you notice?
You’ll probably notice that your right foot feels lighter, maybe tingly and more alive compared to your left foot. . Maybe your right foots feels flatter/closer to the floor, more stable and spread out.
Now, how would you feel if you could create that sense of lightness, less tension and pain in your whole body or better still, in your mind?
Wouldn’t It Be Cool To Always Feel Relaxed, Happy And Energised?
If you weren’t always distracted or your mind cluttered and full of “little mice gnawing away at your brain” as one student shared, wouldn’t you feel happier, have more time to care for yourself and be less anxious and worried about how you are going to cope?
Tell Me More About Meditation
Your mind is a fascinating place. My twins daughters study psychology and I often sit and listen in to their conversation when they talk about the topics they cover at school, especially areas which deal specifically with aspects of the brain and learning behaviours. They like to read psychological thriller novels; CSI and Criminal Minds are amongst their favourite TV programmes. When I listen to them analyse the characters they watch on CSI and Criminal Minds and relate it to the psychological research literature they cover in class, I think “wow”…tell me more! Unfortunately, I haven’t any of their research papers to hand, however, here’s an article I came across which gives you more information about the scientific effects of meditation on the brain
My Bereavement Counsellor introduced me to breath work and meditation as way for me to unwind and sleep easy at night and calm my manic thoughts when I woke up.
Meditation is the “ultimate goal so to speak” of practicing yoga. When you meditate you develop a closer, less obstructed and enmeshed view of your life and problems you are going through. With regular practice you become, what we call in meditation, a “witness” or “observer” to your life.
You are still active and present in your life and all your cares and concerns are still there yet the way you view your challenges, the stance and perspective you take on what is important to you, shifts. With regular practice it is like a path has been cleared in your head and you can sense/see a way of resolving what is going on and what you can do differently to resolve your situation.
Some times in life, you have to accept that you can’t change what has happened or how other people react; you can only be responsible for your own response and emotions.
What Is Happiness?
Happiness comes when you have that sense of clarity, clear insight and acceptance of your moment by moment thoughts and experiences.
Have you noticed how when life flows you glow yet the minute “stuff happens” you panic, your mind goes into over drive and you feel locked in a position where you struggle to feel happy and peaceful and it feels as if you are stuck between a rock and a hard place?
What Choices Are Open To You When You Feel Unhappy And Overwhelmed?
When you feel disheartened, depressed or low this is the precise moment you need to turn to your meditation practice; to breathe and find a way to seek the higher, more insightful lesson shown. It isn’t easy as society conditions you to look on the bleak side and expect the worse, or to seek revenge, strike out and cause harm to the person who has upset you. Yet ultimately true happiness comes from within when you can let go of your differences, forgive and move on.
What Is Meditation?
There are many obstacles, approaches and techniques to meditation, which we will cover in later posts. In essence all meditation practices aim to help you learn how to train your mind to be calm and to let go of your attachment to the outcome of your worries.
For now, I wish you to get a feel of what it is like to use your breath to meditate, to take two minutes out of your busy schedule to rest, relax and recharge your energy.
What Is Breath Meditation?
Your breath is your link between your mind and your body and as such provides a useful point of reference to help you on your path of happiness through meditation. You can find out more about the Power of the Breath from an excellent book written by one of my spiritual teachers, Swami Saradananda
Here are 3 breathing awareness exercises I would like you to try…to give you an opportunity to get a glimpse of what it is like to let go of stress and worry and create space and freedom in your mind.
WORD OF WARNING
Yoga and meditation are safe, harmless practices, however as with all forms of exercise please exercise respect and patience for your body. Always consult your GP before starting a new exercise programme and any sign of discomfort or pain, please stop, rest and if necessary seek further medical advice.
Two Warm- Up Breathing Meditation Exercises
As an initial warm-up to breathing meditation, I like to practice the following two breathing exercises when I wake up in bed.
1. Release Your Jaw And Throat
All you have to do is open your mouth wide and make a long silent “HAAAAAAAAA” sound. Really empty your lungs. Close your mouth. And repeat this little sequence 3-5
2. Deep Yogic Breathing Exercise
Lying down on your bed. Place your right palm on your lower abdomen and your left palm on your upper chest, just below your collar bones. Make sure your elbows rest on the bed. Breathe slowly in through your nose and as you do so, consciously focus on sending your breath from your right hand up to your left hand, be aware of the hands raising on the in-breath and slowly lowering on the out breathe. Repeat this deep yogic breathing for 3 – 7 more times, each time, allowing the breath to be fuller and deeper.
Once you feel a bit calmer, have a go at trying the following three breathing exercises as a way to deepen your sense of calm and clean your mind in preparation for meditation.
1. Observe Your Breath
Lying on your back, on your bed; turn your attention to your breath. Don’t change your breath; Just observe the way you breathe. Gradually, take a steady breath in through your nose and slowly exhale through your nose. Don’t change or force anything. Just lay still and focus on the movement of your breath – from your belly to your ribs and upper chest.
Anytime you notice your attention wandering away from observing your breath, simply acknowledge your thoughts and gently bring your awareness back to the breath. Stay still and continue in this practice for 2-5 minutes.
2. Counting Each Breath
Lay on your back on your bed. Spend a few moments tuning into your breath and observe how you are breathing. Breathe in slowly through your nose and count “one”. Slowly breathe out and count “two”. Breathe in and count “three”, breathe out and count “four”…. Continue counting your breaths up to number 10. When you reach number 10, go back to number one. Repeat for 2-10 minutes. If your mind wanders during the practice and you lose concentration, just return your attention to the breath and begin counting from number one.
3. Cleansing Breath Meditation
This meditation helps you to release negative feelings and frustration and replace them with a more positive and uplifting energy. Sit upright in a comfortable position, hands resting on your lap. Tune into your breath and spend a few moments gently breathing in and out through your nose. On the next inhalation breathe in the word “love” and as you breathe out , breathe out the word “love”….continue with breathing in and out the phrase “love” for 5-15 minutes. Slowly open your eyes and remain still and be aware of the sensations and energy flowing through your body.
1. Set aside 5-15 minutes over the next 3 days, either first thing in the morning when you wake or anytime during your day when you feel frazzled and your thoughts are scattered.
2. Read through the above meditations. Get all intimate and familiar with your breath and select one of the 3 meditation techniques and practice it for the next three days.
3. Let me know what your favourite breathing meditation technique is and what difference it makes to how you feel.
Write your thoughts in the comment box below and if you know any of your girl-friends or work colleagues who are stressed and tired, share this post with them.
Better still as an extra special treat to yourself … arrange lunch, go for a stroll in your local park, and practice the HAAA breaths together. It will be fun and sharing the moment with a close friend makes the practice more memorable and easy to do.
And if you enjoyed this post and want to discover more yoga and breathing meditations which you can use at work or at home to reduce stress, reduce tension in your back and feel more relaxed, then you’ll enjoy reading my Kindle eBook Simple Yoga Seated Exercises To Relieve Back And Neck Pain. You can download your copy when you click here.
Have a wonderful day and thank you.