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.
Lack of sleep is only bad if you have to drive,
No matter who you are, how old you are, where you live, what you do in your life, we all have one thing in common ... we need sleep!
But for some sleep, or good quality sleep seems to be elusive.
For me sleep is critical, as is my daily nap lol, and I am pretty useless when I don't get enough sleep ... bring on the giant cup of tea please.
When I don't get enough sleep I tend to be fused by caffeine and sugar ... not good, and not supportive of continued good sleep.
Before we get into all of the nitty gritty about how to improve your sleep, we need to first look at some sleep facts ...
For our last less traditional meditation we are going to look at a wandering meditation. Make sure that you also check out the art and tea meditation posts while you are here.
Some of you might be familiar with the concept of forest bathing, if you are this will feel similar to you ... but a little bit different as well.
For a simple wandering meditation you can go anywhere ... a forest, meadow, garden, park, your neighbourhood, anywhere you have space to move around and maybe a little quiet as well.
The key to this type of meditation is moving slowly ... this is not a race ... this is a slow meander ... an aimless wander.
Continuing my series of blogs highlighting non-traditional meditations, let's look at a tea meditation.
Tea is a drink that has been enjoyed in various forms since as early as 3rd century AD in China, however most of us mindlessly make and drink it.
We have lost the ritual and the sacredness of enjoying a perfect cup of tea from start to finish.
I know that I am bad for making a cup and then walking away, relying on my family to jump when the timer goes off ... yes I set a timer when I brew a cup of tea lol ... or reheating a cup over and over because I have gotten distracted with another task and waked away from a cup completely.
All is not lost though ... what if we brought back the ritual, the mindfulness, the sacredness of a beautiful cup of tea ... what if we tried a tea meditation, even if it is only with one cup a day? What if we slowed down and enjoyed the process from start to finish, from a meditative sense?
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!