Meditation is a practice as old as time. Sages and wise ones have been entering the internal cave of the mind for centuries. But why now all of a sudden are we seeing a surge in this age old practice? And what exactly can it do for us?
cover photo via Yoga Journal
Meditation is a practice of awareness. It allows us to view our thoughts, words and actions, from a place of detached awareness. Meaning we can see what is happening in the mind and body, but we are not affected by it. We let it come, we let it go. It goes beyond this, but in its most basic form, that is the practice. There are many ways to meditate, and there is no wrong way to do it. You may simply find some techniques more effective than others. The results of consistent practice can include greater mental clarity, less reactivity to stress, being able to see the “bigger picture”, and a general calming the body and mind. Science is now proving that meditation has a profound effect on the neural pathways of the brain, and when we meditate we are literally rewiring these pathways. Where we used to find negativity, we now found happiness. Where we used to find stress, we now find calm.
One of the best ways to have an immediate effect is by working with the breath. Breath shifts energy. It brings you what you need, and it releases what you don’t. Coupling this function of the body with conscious intention of the mind, we are given a powerful opportunity to transform. We can control the movement of the breath for specific desired outcomes. The mind follows the breath. What happens in the breath, happens in the mind and vice versa. When you feel a surge of energy moving through the body, instead of allowing it to simply move through, the mind labels it (anxiety, lethargy, etc), and then looks for a story to explain the sensation. This creates stress, and places the sensation in a “holding pattern” making it more challenging for the energy to release. It also reinforces thought loops that can keep us stuck in fear (i.e. i’ll never be good enough, I won’t succeed, etc. etc), which only serves to fuel the sensation of anxiety or stress, and the cycle continues. When we learn to allow the sensation to simply move through, with the help of the breath, things can and do shift with much greater ease.
Use these simple techniques anytime for the desired result. If possible, practice for a minimum of 3 minutes.
Plug the right nostril and take full inhales and exhales through the left nostril only. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system bringing you into a state of calm. Great for anxiety or with troubled sleeping.
For Alertness and Energy
Plug the left nostril and take full inhales and exhales through the right nostril only. This activates the sympathetic nervous system, helping to energize the body and mind when you are feeling lethargic or are having difficulty concentrating.
Close the right nostril and inhale fully through the left nostril. Then close the left nostril and exhale fully through the right nostril. Keep the left nostril plugged, inhale through the right. Close the right nostril exhale through the left. Continue in this pattern. , alternating nostrils after each inhale. This breath activates both hemispheres of the brain equally, promoting balance and mental clarity. It is also has grounding effects and promotes a deep sense of well-being. It can help with headaches and other stress-related symptoms
*Use the thumb of the right hand to close the right nostril and the index finger of the right hand to close the left nostril.
For Anger or Agitation
Curl the tongue into a “u” shape (if you can’t curl the tongue, simply stick the tip of your tongue outside your mouth). Inhale through the curled tongue, exhale through the nose. Repeat for 3 minutes.
This breath has a powerful cooling effect and can calm the mind. It can also aid in digestion and lower the temperature of fevers.
*you may notice a bitterness on the tongue at first. This is a sign of detoxification and will pass
For Letting Go
Inhale in 4 equal “sniffs” of air, exhale in 8 equal “sniffs” of air. Suspend the breath briefly between inhales and exhales. The goal is for the breath to remain relaxed. For added effect, as you exhale, visualize anything you would like to release from your life.
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