“What is Mindfulness?”
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”-Jon Kabat-Zinn
Pranayama: The formal practice of controlling the breath, which is the source of our prana, or vital life force.
Meditation: Deep thinking or focus of one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting or mantra. A method of relaxation and/or connection to one’s spirituality.
Have you ever been going somewhere and arrived at your destination only to realize you haven't noticed anything or anyone you met along the way? Of course you have, we all have! These are common examples of "mindlessness," or as some people put it, "going on automatic pilot."
Our reactions to the stressful events of our lives can become so habituated that they occur essentially out of our awareness, until, because of physical or emotional or psychological dysfunction, we cannot ignore them any longer. These reactions can include tensing the body, experiencing painful emotional states, even panic and depression, and being prisoners of habits of thinking and self-talk including obsessional list making, and intense, even toxic self-criticism.
An important antidote to this tendency to "tune-out," to go on "automatic pilot," is to practice mindfulness. To practice mindfulness means to pay more careful attention in a particular way.
Parasympathetic Nervous System:
When you feel threatened or stressed, your body automatically triggers what is called the fight-or-flight response (Sympathetic Nervous System). If you were a caveman hunting for food in prehistoric times and a saber-tooth tiger came into your path, your body would prepare to fight the tiger or flee from it (anytime you experience danger/highly
stressful situations this is the inborn response). Your body responds to almost every stressful moment in your life with the same response.
Our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), when activated, tells the body it's okay to slow down. It's okay to relax and not have to be prepared to take immediate action. It's literally communicates to our body to "rest & digest".
Unfortunately, for most of us, we are in a heightened state of stress the majority of our day, which keeps the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) "on", leaving us in a state of fight-or-flight.
In this state, our stress hormones release more glucose, which becomes an unused energy source. Over using our stress hormones also means:
Shortened breaths (more strain on the heart), sugar cravings, weight gain, increased blood pressure & heart rate, obsessive thinking, and irritability.
The good news is, we can use our breath to control our nervous system, physical body, & our thoughts. We do this by using some of the PNS breath activating techniques listed below:
Activate PNS & Cultivate Mindfulness with THE BREATH:
10 SECOND BREATH:
10 second breath vs our typical 3 second daily breath
-Inhale for a count of 4, 1 sec pause, exhale for a count of 4, 1 sec pause.
*REPEAT for 5 rounds
Inhale through the nose deeply for a count of 4 and exhale out the mouth (making a deep “sigh” sound as you exhale)
*REPEAT for 3 rounds
This is the body’s natural release mechanism for stress or tension that builds up in the mind or physical body.
1. Find a relaxed and comfortable position. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your third eye (space between your eyebrows).
2. Visualize the shape of a square right there in the center of your forehead and with the next few breaths, visualize the square growing bolder and brighter.
3.With the next inhale, visualize you're pulling your breath up the left side of the square. As you exhale, draw the line across the top of the square. Next inhale, drawing the right side down the square and as you exhale, drawing the line across the bottom towards the left corner.
*REPEAT 10-15 rounds
BODY SCAN MEDITATION:
In the evening, around bedtime, lie down with arms relaxed by the sides and legs relaxed out straight. Close the eyes and scan through each part of the body individually, relaxing each part from the feet all the way to the top of the head/back of the neck. By resting attention on each part of the body, slowly & methodically, the mind is soothed. This also reduces anxiety, improves sleep, concentration & focus, and builds self-awareness, which leads to greater emotional intelligence and happiness level.
1. Begin lying down or seated
2. Place your hands on either side of your belly so you
can feel your ribcage on both sides.
3. As you breath in, feel the belly expand out into the
hands first. Then pull the breath higher until you feel
your ribcage expand. Continue to pull it even higher
until you feel the chest expand (about 4 seconds in
4. Exhale, chest first, then ribs, belly.
5. Repeat 10 rounds
1. Inhale through the nose for a count of 4 seconds
2. Hold your breath (retain) for 7 seconds
3. Exhale very slowly from the mouth for 8 seconds
1.Take a comfortable and tall seat
2. Relax your left palm comfortably into your lap and right hand in front of your face.
3. Bring your pointer finger & middle finger to rest between your eyebrows and your thumb and ring finger to either side of your nostrils
4. Take a deep breath in & out through your nose
5. Close your right nostril with your right thumb.
6. Inhale slowly through the left nostril
7. Pause and then open your right nostril to release the breath slowly
8. Pause and inhale through the right side/open left & release
KAPALABHATI (SKULL-SHINING BREATH)
1. Sit comfortably in an upright posture and rest your hands on your lower belly. If you’re sitting in a chair, make sure to place both feet on the ground.
2. Take a deep, cleansing breath before you begin, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
3. Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your belly with air about ¾ way full.
4. In a quick motion, forcefully expel all the air from your lungs while drawing your navel in toward your spine. The primary movement is from your diaphragm.
5. Allow your lungs to fill up naturally, with no effort as your belly expands.
6. Perform this cycle 10 times, then allow your breathing to return to normal and observe the sensations in your body. Repeat these cycles of 10 movements, 3 to 4 times.
BHASTRIKA PRANAYAMA (BELLOWS BREATH)
1. Sit up tall, relax your shoulders, and take a few deep, breaths in and out from your nose. With each inhale, expand your belly fully as you breathe.
2. Begin bellows breathing by exhaling forcefully through your nose. Follow by inhaling forcefully at the rate of one second per cycle.
3. Make sure the breath is coming from your diaphragm; keep your head, neck, shoulders, and chest still while your belly moves in and out.
*For your first cycle, move through a round of 10 Bhastrika breaths, then take a break and breathe naturally, observing the sensations in your mind and body. After a 15- to 30-second break, begin the next round with 20 breaths. Finally, after pausing for another 30 seconds, complete a third round of 30 bellows breaths.
Make sure to listen to your body during the practice. Bellows breathing is a safe practice, but if you feel light-headed in any way, take a pause for a few minutes while breathing naturally. When the discomfort passes, try another round of bellows breathing, slower and with less intensity.
This is the only practice that allows you the time to get a deep release in the Fascia that surrounds runs through our muscles.
Fascia needs these long holds to restructure itself in the body, creating more space between our joints. Think of Fascia as a thin, plastic-like material and our muscles as rubber bands. In quick stretching, we feel a release in our muscles but then they snap back into their original formation, not increasing length once we release from the stretch. Fascia, like a thin-plastic, can be remolded and reformed and maintains its new shape through time and practice.
-We learn to sit and examine our discomfort rather than avoiding it like we’re used to doing in uncomfortable situations.
-Reduces stress & anxiety. Because of the long holds in Yin poses, we have plenty of time to breathe consciously. The breath is our link to relaxing our Sympathetic Nervous System (fight or flight) and activating our Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and digest).
-We move slowly in Yin practice in a world where we’re used to moving very fast and jumping from task to task. This teaches us to pay attention to things we typically would ignore when we’re running on “auto-pilot” and caught up in daily life.
Promotes emotional well-being and balance:
In Yin, we are stressing the meridian lines (low-resistance energy pathways in the body that feed our internal organs). Each meridian is associated with an emotion, and if out of balance can cause us to feel an emotional outburst or imbalance. Think of it like doing self-acupuncture!
The average human has anywhere from 40,000-50,000 thoughts in a single day. It’s entirely too easy to identify with these thoughts and to take each one for the truth. The thoughts we believe are the thoughts that end up creating our feelings and our realities.
International Yoga Trainer,