|Posted on December 28, 2017 at 11:20 AM|
How to reduce stress in your life using breath, movement, and meditation:
Have you ever been so stressed that you hear a ringing in your ears?
Or you feel like you are in a pressure cooker?
I have. At times I have reached for food, drugs, alcohol, sleep and other people to manage my stress, and now I have learned tools for self-regulation through breath, movement and meditation.
On a scale of 1-10, ten being the highest stress, take note of your stress level right now.
Practice some of the tips in this blog and observe your stress level again at the end.
At any given moment we have the power to focus on our breathing. How do you focus on your breathing?
1) Count the length of your inhales and count the length of your exhales using your fingers. Can you inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 4 counts. For some starting with a 4 count can be challenging. Starting by inhaling and exhaling for 3 seconds can be easier. “Inhale, 1, 2, 3. Exhale, 1, 2, 3.” Then try 4 counts, and then 5 counts. Gradually lengthening your inhales and lengthening your exhales, make your goal inhaling for 10 counts and exhaling for 10 counts.
2) Listen to the sound of your breath. When you listen to the sound of your breath it brings you into the present moment. Hearing the sound of your breath encourages your thoughts to clear since your focus is on the sound of your breathing. Mixing listening to the sound of your breath with the counting frees you from the constant cycle of thoughts, clearing your mind, and reducing your stress. Often our thoughts are what cause us stress. Taking a temporary break from your thoughts to breathe consciously shifts your mood, and makes you more equipped to address the stresses in your life, and the power to release and let go of thoughts that aren’t relevant. When you can let go of stressful thoughts that aren’t necessary, you can experience peace.
3) Feel the expansion and contraction of your body while you breathe. Feel your body expand on the inhale breath, and feel your body soften or contract on the exhale breath. As your body expands with the inhale you can feel your skin press out against the air around your body, and as you exhale you can feel the air press back against you. Allowing your body to move while you breathe reminds you you are connected to everything. And when you remember you are connected to everything, you remember God created everything. And when you remember God created everything, you can remember God created everything in Love. When you meditate on God and Love, stress reduction is natural.
4) See. In your mind’s eye, imagine your body filling with breath. When you visualize your body filling with breath, notice if there are parts of your body you see filling and parts where maybe the breath hasn’t reached yet. As you lengthen your inhales and lengthen your exhales, can you fill all of your body with breath reaching the areas maybe you weren’t able to access before. As you see your entire body filling with breath, think about oxygenating your cells. In a process called cellular respiration your cells take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Imagine all of your cells filling with oxygen. Think of oxygen as love, imagine all of your cells filling with love.
Check in with your stress level now and observe if it has changed with practicing the long slow breathing explained above.
Even using those four exercises you experienced breath, movement and meditation. As you breathe, your body moves with the breath and long slow deep breathing is a form of meditation. I have heard people say, “I can’t meditate.”, but I think people have a pre-conceived notion of what meditation is and what meditation isn’t. Focusing on your breath is a form of meditation. And although ceasing the turning of thoughts is the “goal” of meditation, if you think a thought that doesn’t negate your meditation practice. Everyone thinks thoughts. In fact the process of thinking is natural and rhythmical. Thoughts come and go. With time, practice and experience, one who practices mediation can begin to observe their thoughts. When you can observe your thoughts, you can also witness them pass like clouds and return to silence, especially if you give yourself permission to do so without beating yourself up for thinking thoughts. Simply naming the act, “oh look, I am thinking a thought”, and then returning to the sound, feeling, and seeing that happens during active breathing focuses your attention back to your breath and away from your thoughts. And you might repeat that process over and over again. Perfect meditation is not the goal. Consistent practice is the goal that creates lasting results, stamina, and the clearing of mental stuff.
Maybe sitting and focusing on your breath hasn’t improved your stress. Movement is a great stress relief. There are so many different forms of exercise, sports, and art forms that include movement. I happen to love Pilates and Yoga which I consider moving meditations. Walking is another easy and accessible form of meditation which includes a great way to regulate your breathing.
1) go outside and walk
2) count your steps
3) Inhale for 4 steps
4) Exhale for 4 steps
6) See if you can go up to six, eight, or ten counts or steps per inhale and per exhale
7) Come back to your four count to finish
Meditation can come in so many forms. Some say art is a form of meditation. We have talked about exercise as a meditation. And we discussed breathing as a form of meditation. Anything that brings you into the present moment freeing you from your thoughts, the past and the future counts as meditation.
How do you achieve sitting silently without thought? Ask God for guidance as to how to achieve this state and I am confident the practice that is right for you will reveal itself. I love Kundalini Yoga for this reason, and Yamuna Body Rolling because I find myself in an effortless state of silence at the end, dynamic silence, and it is delicious. If you are having trouble accessing this state and you have tried some of the tips in this blog, check me out at Lake Pilates. Schedule an appointment, take a class or come to a workshop. Please send me an e-mail, [email protected], and share with me what was revealed to you when you asked God for guidance, I am so interested to know what works best for you!
In conclusion, stress can be caused because God is asking us to level up. We are in a time of ascension right now doors are opening for us to know higher levels of consciousness. To stay where we are can cause a build up of pressure internally, and the answer is to walk through the doors God is opening for us. Although it may feel temporarily like constriction, expansion is the inevitable result of committing to practices physically and spiritually. Practices that assist with ascension are offered at Lake Pilates. Merkaba meditations that activate the light body are included in the Pilates and Yoga classes, Sufi Chants of Love to purify the heart, soul, and secret, and workshops such as "The Unity Healing" and "Your Heart is the Doorway".
Looking forward to seeing you at Lake Pilates soon.
Peace, Hawa Robin Cahn
copyright December 2017