I continue to hear from many of you that controlling stress and anxiety and taking care of yourself are a main focus for 2018. You are not alone! This is one of the wonderful things about marking a new year; we get to rededicate ourselves to something important.
Here's a simple breathing technique that might help. We tend to think that in order to help ourselves the solutions need to be complicated or involve a complex sequence of steps. The truth is that it can be as simple as conscious breathing. That's not to say that you'll never be stressed out again if you do this technique! As we all know, life happens! But what we can do is make sure our toolbox is full and our practice is steady so we can reach for the right tool in that moment of anxiety.
Here's how it works:
Lay on your back with one hand or both hands on your low belly just as you see above. Do your best to breathe through your nose, but know if you're a bit congested you can always breathe through the mouth. Close your eyes if comfortable and focus on your breath. As you breathe in, direct the breath down into the hand on your belly and allow your belly to expand so it lifts your hand up to the sky. As you exhale, let it all fall back toward the earth. Continue like this for several breaths. It may take a few tries to get your belly to relax enough to really fill with the breath. Don't get frustrated, just keep going.
That alone is a wonderful practice and could be complete in itself!
If you'd like to take it a step or two further, try this:
Shift one hand to your rib cage. Now when you inhale, expand the belly just as you've been doing but then continue that expansion into your ribs and the hand that's there. Feel the ribs move out into your hand. On the exhale, reverse the process. Ribs draw in first, then the belly deflates.
Repeat that several times.
If you'd like to go one last step further, shift a hand to your heart center or center of the chest area, just above your breastbone. Now breathe into the belly just as you have, the ribs just as you have and then see if you can find one last little sip of air under your collarbones. Again you'll exhale in reverse, so the chest releases followed by the ribs and then the belly. Do this for several breaths.
When you're finished, let the breath return to normal for several breaths before you roll onto your right side and come up to sit. Take a moment there before moving on.
This is called three part breath and is a wonderful way to help calm mind, body and spirit when life is a bit tense. You can do this in bed before you go to sleep or even when you first wake up in the morning. If you notice you get a bit light headed at first it should pass, but just let the breath work go if it gets uncomfortable and try again at another time.
When you finish the practice, pause to notice the difference in your body, mind and perhaps even spirit.