Most of the time breathing just happens.
In & Out ... an average of 22,000 times per day. (lung.ca)
Breathing is one of those amazing things that can be controlled automatically by the autonomic nervous system OR it can be controlled by you voluntarily.
For this post we are going to focus on a breathing exercise that can have a profound effect on your nervous system.
This is something that Yogis have know forever, but science and research are only just catching on to.
The research is showing that specific breath patterns through your nose can effect your nervous system & body in amazing ways.
a little background anatomy ...
Just so you are better able to follow along when I get further into how the breathing exercise affects your body, I feel I need to give you a little background .... it's short I promise.
Your autonomic nervous system has 2 parts ... the sympathetic - fight or flight - triggers an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rate ... and the parasympathetic - rest and digest - which triggers a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rate.
Most parts of your body have nerve fibres for both the sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of your nervous system ... including your nose.
And a large number of us are running around with our sympathetic nervous systems firing like crazy!
I was actually blown away by the number of research studies that I was able to find on the effects of left nostril breathing on general health and the nervous system.
And guess what ... my research supported what I was taught about moon breath!
the yogis know ...
In yoga teachings, when you breathe in through a nostril the qualities of that side will be activated and when you breathe out the through a nostril the qualities will be sedated.
The left nostril being connected to the lunar energy channel, brings cooling and nourishing energy ...and the right nostril being connected to the solar energy channel, brings warmth and fire energy.
There are actually 3 breathing exercises you can use to embrace these energies ... Moon breath or left nostril breathing, Sun breath or right nostril breathing and alternate nostril breathing (which we well learn about in the next post).
Although there is a time and a place for sun breath, my research actually focused on moon breath because what I see most in the clinic is people whose nervous systems that are stressed and just need to be soothed.
With Moon Breath ... you focus your inhale through the left nostril and your exhale though the right.
When you have left nostril dominance you generally feel more restful; locomotion activity decreases; heart rate decreases; blood pressure decreases; respiration rate decreases; and body temp decreases. Your parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system is activated and the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system is sedated.
From the yogi perspective ... moon breath is very nourishing and calming, and will sooth your nervous system. It is helpful before bed if you have trouble sleeping; if you need to physically cool your body (like if you are blessed with hot flashes); and when dealing with stress, jittery or anxious feelings or when you just need to calm an overactive mind.
Out of all of the breathing exercises that I have learned, I find that what I need most is moon breath ... and I use this exercise regularly throughout the day when I am feeling stressed or anxious and my nervous system needs a little help to calm down.
So my challenge for you ...
Give Moon Breath a try ... observe what you feel immediately and in the time after practicing.
Start with 22 breath cycles - inhale + exhale = one.
Counting like this ......... Inhale, exhale, one .... inhale, exhale, two .... inhale, exhale, three ....
or counting off beads on your mala or meditation bracelet (find the special bead, count off 22 beads and then with each breath cycle move backward towards the special one)
Aim to try this breathing every day for at least 2 week ( just to give it a fair shot) and see how you feel. Most of the research studies allowed for 6 weeks of practice before reassessing.
Regular practice will help your brain and body learn the exercise and the effect so that when you need it in an emergency or stress crisis you aren't trying to learn it on the spot.
So pick a quiet place and time of day when you can consistently practice.
And Just Breathe.
PS. For more breathing exercises click here.
For guided meditations click here.
Stay tuned for information on the benefits of alternate nostril breathing.
creating a sacred space
For most of my meditation history I did not have a set place to practice. Which meant that I was very sporadic in my meditation, practicing whenever I could find the time or clear a space.
This often meant that I was only surface meditating because I was never really able to train my brain and body to fully sink into my practice.
Maybe the floor was too hard, or there was too much extra noise, or too much chaos in the house, or the place I had decided on for that particular day actually caused my anxiety to ramp up rather than calming and soothing my nervous system.
But I did not really realize any of this until the beginning of the pandemic.
At the beginning when my clinic was shut down, I had the heartbreaking reality of having an empty clinic and not knowing when I would be able to begin practice again. I could not look at the clinic, set up as a clinic, and not have sadness wash over me. So I packed it up ... and took the opportunity to bring calm to myself amid the chaos and turned my treatment room into a meditation/yoga/dance studio.
All of a sudden I had space for just me!
I could close the door, turn on music that made me feel (as loud as I wanted), and sit in quiet meditation. Often just sitting and focusing on breathing.
But after 3 months of glorious meditation practice, I was displaced again when the clinic reopened. A bit of a double edged sword as I was back to doing the work that I love, but my meditation practice floundered with the loss of a sacred place to practice.
Fast forward a year and a bit, and I was once again feeling the draw back to regular meditation practice ... I needed to get back to regular practice!
So I went on the hunt, not for a full room (because I don't have the luxury of that just yet), but for a sweet little corner to call my own.
See ... just a little space in the middle of our living room.
Then I had to start to set my meditation stage, so to speak, and create my very own sacred space.
What goes into a sacred space you ask?
the anatomy of a sacred space
whant to see my sacred space for 2023?
I hope you are inspired to create your own sacred space for meditation ... even if all you start with is something lovely to gaze at.
If you need inspiration please let me know, I am happy to help guide you.
PS ... don't forget to check out all of my guided meditation recordings
as well as my Malas, Meditation bracelets & Essential Art collection.
WHAT IF I TOLD YOU THAT READING IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH AND WELLNESS?
That 30 minutes of reading has found to be just as effective as yoga at lowering blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of psychological distress!
Or that reading increases brain connectivity both during active reading and for days after ... the brain literally lights up with activity when viewed under an MRI during reading.
Would you run and grab something to read or would you need a little more convincing?
Here is more research that I found to support reading being good for your health ...
What should you read???
Now, if you are at all like me, that first line already had you running for the nearest book and hollering to your family that you were taking a wellness break and are not to be disturbed ... although if you are really really like me, you probably already had a book or two sitting right beside you ready to go lol.
For the rest of you ... The answer is simple ...
Read anything and everything you can get your hands on!
Mix it up between fiction and non-fiction (but stay the heck away from the news ... that shits depressing).
Try something motivational or life changing.
Step out of your comfort zone and try a new genre ... or a subcategory of your favourite genre.
Pull out your old favourites, or a new book from your favourite author.
Find something with a little sizzle (or a lot - thanks to RHD for that awesome word hahaha), some suspense, or action, or adventure ... something set in your favourite location ... something that teaches you something fun.
Ask friends for recommendations and give them a try ... even if they aren't the typical books you read you never know what amazing world you might stumble across.
Try the website whatshouldireadnext.com for suggestions based on a book you loved.
Check out your local library.
Sign up for bookbub.com and get emails once a day or once a week highlighting e-books that are being offered for free or sale from the publishers and accessible though your favourite book reading apps. You get to pick the genres and subcategories that you see offers for.
Light and heartwarming
Brien-anne RMT, CA
I am passionate not only about Massage Therapy & Aromatherapy, but also living a holistic lifestyle and empowering & inspiring others to do the same!