Don't Forget to Breathe
Whether you're sitting on your mat at the beginning of your favorite yoga class, laying your head down after a busy day, or standing quietly at your kitchen counter taking the very first few sips of your morning cup of coffee, you're breathing. Isn't it silly that breathing is the single most important thing that we do each day, yet we hardly think about it? We can't even go three minutes without doing it, but because it happens automatically we don't even notice.
These last eight months have been totally hectic and full of joy for me as I begin this new chapter of my life with you all as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. Many great changes have stemmed from this busy year, including being more attentive to my breath. If it wasn't for my background in yoga and the simple urge to learn how to stay calm during the intense and stressful times, I'm not exactly sure how I would have managed to stay on top of my studies, finding time to exercise, be a sane girlfriend, and enjoy the company of my friends without worrying about the next deadline that needed to be met.
So! As I make the bend around the last tough corner of school and begin to see the finish line in the distance, I'd like to share a few things that I've learned along the way:
Take time for you! Stretch, drink a cup of tea, even talk to your dog, whatever. Just do what you need to do, and most importantly, do it first! You are you're most important priority, and if you're not happy and healthy, the folks that you surround yourself with are sure to reap the side effects. When you give yourself half the chance to recover from stress, an important deadline, tightness from sitting at a desk for hours on end, your bod will take it an run with it. The only thing you need to do? Listen to her and help her get from tight and stressed, to relaxed and loose. While doing this, incorporate deep even breaths with short holds on either end. You'll be well on your way to being the happiest, recharged mamma-jamma on the block!
Next, soak up those first morning rays, or climb high above your city to watch the sunset. Whatever time of day it is, whether you're in your backyard, or sitting on a park bench, try to get out there and feel the warmth of the sun on your body at least once a day. From experience, I've found that this is best accomplished in a beautiful area, with clean air to breathe, and sounds of nature surrounding you.
Take a walk on the wild side. If you're in a slump and need to recharge, or your bod is calling for a bit more movement in your life: hop on the good foot and do the bad thing. Get outside and suck up some of the freshest air coming off of the trees in your closest forest, and walk or run around! As Adults I truly believe that we forget how to play. Going for a brisk walk or run will surely get your heart rate up, challenge your breath and let yourself forget about the stresses that we seem to wear as regularly as our latest article of clothing from Patagonia.
Take a nap if you're feeling it. Find a comfortable place to lay down, setting a timer if you'd like, and close your eyes. If you don't intend to fall asleep, getting horizontal for a brief moment during the day can still be great for the nervous body and gives your muscles a chance to extend and stretch out. As you close your eyes begin to notice the length of your breath and how you feel because of it. Is it short because you're stressed? Take this opportunity to slowly fill your lungs, hold the breath within you and then in a controlled manner, slowly begin to release, pausing at the end. Continue this cycle four or five more times and begin to notice if your muscle tension has softened and whether you've become more relaxed.
Other powerful benefits of simple breathing exercises:
- Decrease anxiety and depression
- Increase happiness and optimism
- Improve sleep
- Strengthen our ability to regulate our emotions
- Reduce impulsivity, cravings and addictions
- Decrease stress and regulate our body's level of cortisol: the stress hormone
Bringing awareness to your breath is a practice. It takes energy each day to come back to your breath, wherever you are, and just be present for a few moments. I promise that it is one of the most rewarding practices that I've experienced, and that it has gotten me through some of the highest highs and the lowest lows. Your breath will always be by your side. Wouldn't it be nice to show her a little attention every now and again?