It's been a stressful and emotional week. I was in the height of my fears and frustrations when my husband looked at me and said, "Kristie, BREATH. This is all temporary." My husband found wisdom so simply stated. I had forgotten how we get through anything tough in life (or perhaps more accurately, how we get through life): one breath at a time. From that point on, whenever the situation I was dealing with got too tough, I breathed...consciously. The emotions came up, bubbled out, and passed.
Yesterday, a friend was asking me which Pranayama I practiced to calm myself down when feeling anxious. The first one that came to mind was the one I had found most cleansing and relaxing throughout the week: The Full Yogic Breath. What is that? How do you do it? This is how I like to teach it in class:
Sit with your legs folded and your spine long. Bring your right hand to your navel and your left hand to your breast bone. In your mind's eye, see a closed flower in each of the three origin points of the Full Yogic Breath-- the lower abdomen below the navel, the middle abdomen above the navel, and the upper chest under your breast bone. We begin by breathing in to each part individually before we combine them for a Complete Yogic Breath.
Send all the breath in your body out through your nose. As you draw new breath in, allow it to o pen the flower in the lower abdomen. As the flower blooms, your right hand will rise. Send that breath back out of the body and observe the flower closing again. This breath induces profound relaxation for the heart, reduces high blood pressure, stimulates digestive processes, and regulates intestinal activity.
Inhale again and release the blossom in the middle abdomen above the navel, expanding the rib cage and lowering the diaphragm. Again, release that breath and watch the petals come together. This breath takes the strain off the heart and provides new supply of blood to the liver, gall bladder, spleen, and kidneys.
Bring the breath in once more and observe the bloom of the flower under your breast bone, drawing the left hand up with it. Once again, send the breath away and close the blossom near your heart. This breathing pattern strengthens the hilar lymph nodes in the lungs and thoroughly nourishes the tips of the lungs.
On the next inhalation, we will open all three flowers with the same breath. Inhale and watch the flowers blossom one at a time- lower abdomen, above your navel, and breastbone. Each opening gives way to the blooming of the next flower. As you exhale each subsequent flower folds back in to itself, ready to begin the process again-- first your lower abdomen, then above your navel, and then your chest. Continue this process.
In this way, your breath is the sun warming the petals and drawing them open- fresh with new energy. As you exhale, the petals reunite and restore. This should not be forced-- it is as natural as a morning glory blooming at first light.
This process of bringing in renewed energy and restoration is a powerful instrument that can be used to induce deep relaxation. It encourages the body and mind to unwind and rest.