We live in a fast-paced “pressure cooker” society. As we rush from one place to the next, we while juggle family, life, recovery, and work commitments. We barely have time to take a breath.
We believe that relaxation is something that should be earned or a thing that happens when we are too exhausted to move.
Sometimes a whole day can pass without us having a moment to ourselves. Feeling exhausted and burnt out becomes the norm. Then add a bad day to the mix and we are left feeling totally overwhelmed.
Unless you create it, there is often no time in the day to just be. And this puts a tremendous strain on the mind and body.
How do we stay calm in an insane world?
A powerful tool, that ancient yogis have been tapping into for thousands of years, is the breath. Next time you’re feeling anxious become aware of your breathing, notice the sharp inhalations and exhalations, and notice your racing thoughts.
There is a symbiotic relationship between the two.
The mind directly influences the breath and breath effects the mind.
Becoming conscious of your breathing is a powerful strategy to create space in the midst of an emotional storm. Many ancient traditions use the breath as the primary focus.
For example, yoga is essentially just a moving meditation, if we strip back all the physical postures the breath is the key ingredient.
Why the breath?
When we slow down the breath, we calm the nervous system. Rapid breathing is a side effect of the fight or flight response that is triggered by a perceived threat. Actively slowing down the breath allows us to step away from distressing thoughts and emotions and simply watch them.
Recently, my yoga teacher said that people respect relaxation as much as they respect themselves.
To cultivate an awareness of the breath, it is vital that we build space into our day for meditation and relaxation.
Here are 3 quick tips to cultivate awareness of breath:
1. Start small
Start with just 5 minutes of mediation or quiet in the morning and evening. Over time, work up to 20 minutes. Use a timer or experiment with free apps such as Headspace or Insight Timer.
2. Don’t expect perfection
Remember that meditation is not about emptying the mind. Expect the mind to wander, expect your anxiety to yell at you.
But show up anyway and bring your attention back to the breath. Notice the length of your inhalations and exhalations. Can you slow them down without strain? Become aware of the physical sensations in your body. Let your thoughts drift by without attaching to them.
3. Be yourself
You don’t need to sit in the lotus position with your eyes closed to meditate.
If the idea of meditation fills you with anxiety, try it with your eyes open and lie down or sit in a position you find comfortable.
With time you will start to separate yourself from your thoughts and emotion and even crave the solitude.
Just give it a try
The breath is a shapeshifter; it reacts to circumstances but it can always bring you back to clarity and the present moment.
So, next time you feel yourself being pulled into uncomfortable emotions or stressful situations, bring your focus back to the breath, find a quiet space and sit.