cleansing breath routine to reduce stress.

“Our breath, like our heartbeat, is the most reliable rhythm in our lives. When we become attuned to this constant rhythm, our breath can gradually teach us to come back to the original silence of the mind.” -Donna Farhi

Every day while my laptop is powering up, I put a little dab of essential oils on my wrists, close my eyes and take three gargantuan breaths. With each big inhale and (obnoxiously loud) exhale, I push a re-set button; I update and restart again with a fresh perspective.

I’m a big believer in pranayama practice, which is the fancy Sanskrit name for specific breathing practices from the Yoga Tradition. I try to do a five to ten minute practice daily. but even a shortened breathing practice, like three big inhales and exhales before I open my inbox, is my go-to routine of self-care because it helps me transition from distracted to focused.

Maintaining a daily routine of anything (even eating 3 meals a day) is difficult for me; but when I do, I feel more balanced and whole. In the Yoga Tradition, living a balanced lifestyle is called brahmacharya. I introduced this concept on my blog previously in these articles: “balancing self-care: brahmacharya” and “yes please!“.

Brahmacharya shows up in our lives when we create routines that lead us away from distraction and instead lead us toward the constant, reliable rhythm of breath and inner contentment. As yoga teacher Donna Farhi reminds us in her classic Bringing Yoga to Life, our breath and our heartbeat are constant rhythmic reminders that a re-set is needed and helpful in maintaining a balanced life and inner contentment. Your breath is all you need.

New to pranayama breathing practices? Looking for a re-set button that reduces stress and helps you focus? Try this one:

Cleansing Exhale Practice: 7-5-3

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Close your eyes.
  2. Take 3 comfortable inhales and exhales.
  3. Inhale through the nose for a count of seven.
  4. Retain the breath for a count of five.
  5. Exhale through the mouth, loudly and fully for the count of three.
  6. Repeat this 7-5-3 pattern three times.

Pause for a moment, breathing in and out of your nose without effort for a few rounds of breath. Notice how you feel. Gently open your eyes, refreshed and re-set.

I encourage you to add this to your morning routine; building a balanced and whole lifestyle starts a few minutes at a time, daily.

You can find additional Breathing Practices, which Audio to guide you, on my page Guided Meditation.

Happy Breathing,

-lisa

 

 

 

“yes please!”

At Westport Yoga KCwe have these little green consent cards that say “Yes, please” on one side and our logo on the back. We use these cards so students can communicate with our yoga teachers to tell us if they consent to hands-on adjustments or if they really just want to be left alone. (Often, our students really just want to be left alone. I get it; me, too.)

I love these “Yes, please” cards because they remind me to be very clear about what I am saying, “Yes, please” to. The cards are a perfect example of practicing brahmacharya, which means moderation and conservation. Brahmacharya is an appeal for a balanced lifestyle and healthy self-care, as we discussed in last week’s post.

Brahmacharya asks me to conserve my energy, refusing to spend it on worry, shame, frustration, crappy coffee, donuts and Twitter, saving it up to use it only on what’s really important. (Coincidentally, love, acceptance, humility, Roasterie Coffee, pumpkin bread and Instagram are pretty darn important.)

Asking myself what I’m actively saying, “yes, please!” to helps me simplify my intentions, my practices and my daily choices. It helps me live a full, abundant life and say ‘no thanks’ to the things that tend to drag me down and deplete my energy.

Are you saying, “yes, please!” to self-care, simplicity,mindfulness and grace? Are you saying, “yes, please!” to conserving your energy in order to spend it on what’s precious and beautiful and life-affirming? Are you saying, “yes, please!” to living a balanced, whole and consecrated lifestyle?

Literally, what are you saying “Yes please!” to? I’d love to hear from you?

-lisa

balancing self-care: brahmacharya

I absolutely, unequivocally adore food. I love the scent, the crispness, the decadence, the savoring of chopping, baking and broiling. I LOVE big grain bowls overflowing with veggies and salads for breakfast and cookies for all meals. And yet, bizarrely, I barely eat anything from Monday morning to Wednesday night. It’s a very, very bad habit that precedes crabbiness, constipation and an overall sense of impending doom for the whole of humankind.

Left to my own devices, from Monday morning to Wednesday evening, I am completely and utterly absorbed in my work: in teaching, in managing, in cleaning, in advertising, in inviting, in begging, in writing, in transmitting the extraordinary teachings of yoga. I am, completely and utterly, out of balance.

Brahmacharya is the fourth ethical consideration of Yoga as found in the Yoga Sutras. (Brush up on the first three we discussed: ahimsa, satya and aparigraha.) It means “moderation and conservation.” It is, in my opinion, the most difficult yama to uphold. Because it is (surprisingly) easy to live an unbalanced, impulse-motivated lifestyle. It is, if you can believe it, much easier to eat oatmeal-butterscotch cookies for every meal than it is to plan, prepare and eat healthy food every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

And, brahmacharya is an essential aspect of yoga philosophy that informs the practice of self-care. It reminds me that I must make my own well-being a priority before I can take care of anyone else. It reminds me that I MUST step away from the chaos of immoderation—by sleeping well, eating well, resting well and loving well—to lead a balanced life.

One thing that helps me practice brahmacharya is to identify impulses, actions, anxieties and perceived expectations that make me feel out of balance. When I write these down and compare them to things that make me feel awesome, energetic and balanced, my steps toward greater self-care seem pretty obvious.

Try this simple exercise to approach brahmacharya:

  • Set a timer for 5 minutes and jot down notes and observations that finish these two sentences:

  • After your five minutes, close your eyes and take 3 big inhales and exhales.
  • Open your eyes, circle 3 things in the “I feel balanced and whole” column that you are going to do THIS WEEK.
  • At the end of the week, notice how you feel and congratulate yourself on your commitment to greater self-care.

“We see that the chaos of immoderation brings us pain and anguish—and that the calm, clear energy released by moderation actually affords us the opportunity to realize our dreams.” -Rolf Gates