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This morning as I woke up and completed my daily yoga breathing exercises, I remembered yesterday’s post- ‘Tired and Overwhelmed-How I Got Into Meditation’, where I shared my annoyance with my Spiritual Counsellor’s ‘magic words’ that I “look within” “everything you need to know is within” and his most famous saying…“keep your eyes on the prize” as a way to deal with the emotional pain I was in.
Fourteen years later down the line I now value and deeply respect the simplicity and truth of these words. In today’s post, I would like to introduce you to two of my favourite breathing meditation techniques I regularly use which my first spiritual teacher/counsellor taught me to help reduce the negative effects of grief on my body.
Symptoms of Grief
There are many signs and symptoms of grief and a popular model used by grief counsellors in looking at the cycle of grief and loss is the Kubler-Ross Model, commonly known as the 5 Stages of Grief theory.
During my period of intense grief, I couldn’t sleep. If you are mourning the loss of a loved one you may recognise the feelings of anger, sadness and guilt as you lay awake all night, reliving the past and wondering “what if?.., or looking at what you could of done differently to prevent your friend/spouse/sibling’s death.
Lack of sleep was having a disastrous effect on my ability to cope and function at home and at work. When I eventually got to sleep, my sleep was often broken to tend to one of my daughters or even worse, I would have to force myself to wake up extra early to complete an outstanding court report or update and prepare a supervision plan for my Probation clients.
During my therapy sessions, we spoke about the effects lack of sleep was having on my life and my counsellor suggested, amongst other tools, “to breathe”. By then I was getting used to my counsellor’s “sense of direction and choice of magical words” so I sat and allowed him to demonstrate basic breathing exercises as a way to calm my nerves and help me to sleep better.
Later that day and over the next few days I sat on my bed, and practiced the two breathing exercises described below. When I woke up during the night and couldn’t get back to sleep, I would breathe. It was amazing. I felt like I was finally regaining control over the roller coaster of emotions and events happening in my life. From discussions with my yoga students, learning how to breathe correctly and how to use your breath to calm or energise you is one of the many benefits they enjoy through regular weekly or private yoga lessons.
Here are the two yoga breathing exercise techniques I tried, over 14 years ago, which I still use on a daily basis to settle my thoughts as I prepare to meditate. I’d love you to try them now and let me know any problems you have doing them.
Two Yoga Breathing Exercises For Inner Peace
ONE: 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.
Let your elbows rest on the bed and make sure you feel comfortable. Keep your chin tucked in, legs about hip distance apart, feet falling to the side, check your lower back feel supported and comfortable. Any discomfort, place a pillow under your knees or rest with your feet flat on the bed and knees up.
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 breath.
Repeat this deep yogic breathing for 3 – 7 more cycles, each time, allowing the breath to be fuller and deeper.
TWO: Sit upright in a comfortable seated position or lie on your back on your bed or yoga mat; turn your attention to your breath.
Don’t change your breath;
Just notice what you notice about 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 remain still and focus on the movement of your breath – from your belly to your ribs and upper chest. Stay focused on observing and noticing your breath.
Any time 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
Final Thoughts – How Was That?
If you are grieving, or having trouble sleeping why don’t you give these two yoga breathing exercises a go. They are simple to do and I guarantee with a little bit of practice and perseverance you will feel less stressed, calmer and more able to fall asleep. And as a side bonus, yoga breathing exercises form the core of any meditation programme you follow.
I’d love to know how you feel after doing these exercises and any difficulties you experienced whilstbreathing. Leave a comment below and if you enjoyed this post feel free to sign up for my F*REE 7-Day ecourse, Marvellous You! for seven more days of healthy life affirming tools and techniques to be healthier and happier this year.
I wish you well on your journey and thank you for pausing and sharing your time and energy.
Remember to Breathe!
image, with thanks from Range of Light via flickr.com