Breathing

Without a doubt, our body and mind are connected. Without our body, our mind cannot be. If we strive for a strong and enlightened mind, we must also strive for a strong and healthy body. Of course, it is still possible to achieve an enlightened mind even in a body stricken by sickness but it is just so much easier to achieve this if our body is strong.

One of the most effective ways to use our body to strengthen our mind is by controlling our breath. Thankfully our depth and speed of breathing is something we can control easily. We can make ourselves breathe slow and deep. This in turn has a positive effect on our body and on our mind. Our heart rate reduces and our mind becomes calmer. In that state, it is easier for us to be strong and pursue positive thoughts.

The health of our body and mind are linked closely. If our mind becomes healthier, so does our body and vice averse. It is a great gift given to us that we can start a process of positive reinforcement by such a simple and easy to do thing such as just taking a few deep breaths!

If you are looking for further directions on how to breath in a stress reducing way, the article Breath, Exhale, Repeat from Lesley Alderman provides a few good exercises:

Coherent Breathing

Coherent breathing simply requires to go into a comfortable position where your belly can easily expand (such as lying on your back or sitting upright). Place your hands on your belly. Then breathe in while counting slowly to four or six, then exhale to the same slow count to four or six. You should aim to complete around five breath per minute which might require some practice. The article recommends to do this for 10 to 20 minutes a day but I think much less time spent on this, even a minute or two, can already yield noticeable results.

Breathing for Stress Reduction

This exercise is designed to combat acute stress. Sit upright and place our hand on your belly. As you inhale straighten to sit upright. As you exhale, lower your head towards the floor and curl around your belly. Upon inhaling, straighten up again.

Energising Breathing

This exercise is designed to achieve the opposite effect of the previous two exercises; rather than calming us down, it is supposed to make us more awake and energised. You can achieve this by standing with a straight back and keeping your arms bend at a 90 degree angle with your upper arms next to your torso and your palms facing up. As you breath in, you pull your elbows backwards. Breath out quickly while saying ‘Ha!’ and as you breath out, thrust your arms forward and turn your palms downward.

Further Reading

The Healing Power of Breath by Dr. Richard Brown

Breathe by Belisa Vranich

Image credit: 4144132

Practices for Enlightenment

I believe we all have moments in which we become the best versions of ourselves; moments in which we are ever so slightly closer to true and deep enlightenment.

Unfortunately, these moments are rare and we digress from whatever insights we have gained easily. For instance, we might realise that binge watching television brings little happiness into our lives but comes with significant costs such as less time to spent with family and friends or for our health. We might then decide to spent less time watching television and more time on more meaningful endeavours.

This decision alone, however, is not sufficient for the outcome we decide upon to manifest. Often, we will try for a few days but then the hustle and bustle of life engulfs us and we quickly forget what we have set out to do.

I believe that to attain wisdom and foster goodness in our lives, we need to constantly remind ourselves of what is most important to us. So that, once we have decided to be good and happy, we can stand a chance against the demands of everyday life. One of the ways to do that is by following a set of practices: sequences of steps we do regularly and with a spiritual purpose.

This has motivated me to design the following simple practices, which may help in achieving a more balanced, meaningful and enlightened life:

I believe these practices can enable us to be stronger and wiser. Of course, we need to find a way to embed them into our lives in a regular manner, for instance every morning or every evening; since a practice can only unfold its power when practised repeatedly.

Featured Image: Source

Practice: Body Mindfulness

With all the distractions in our life, we often forget what is most fundamental to our existence: our own bodies. We should take time to be mindful of how our body feels. Do we have pain somewhere? Do we feel relaxed or tense?

This is the first post of a series in which I will discuss various practices which may help in reaching a happier, more satisfied and more enlightened state of mind. The practice I describe here may help us to become more mindful of our bodies, the temple from which we must utter all our prayers.

These are the steps to follow:

  1. Breathe in until your lungs are completely filled with air, then slowly exhale until all air is gone. Repeat for three times, then breathe naturally, simply observing your breath.
  2. Become mindful of every part of your body starting with your left arm and moving counter-clockwise first to your left leg, then right leg, right arm, then head and finally core by going through the following steps for each body part:
    1. Become aware of how that part of your body feels. Are you relaxed or tense? Is there any pain?
    2. Focus on the body part and make it feel heavier. Don’t press the part downward. Leave it as relaxed as possible, just let your thoughts flow towards it and feel how it slowly becomes heavier. Repeat the words ‘My right arm is heavy’, replacing right arm with the body part you are currently focusing on.
    3. Next direct your thoughts to make the body part feel warmer and even more relaxed. Repeat the words ‘My right arm is warm’. You may speak this softly or just verbalise it in your mind.
    4. Once you feel the body part being relaxed, warm and heavy, move on to the next part.

If your mind wanders during this practice to other issues, gently redirect your thoughts to your body and the steps of this practice.

This simple practice is grounded in a number of foundations. Firstly, controlling breathing is a known way to use our body to calm our mind. Just being mindful of our breath, even without trying to breathe slowly and regularly, will help us to become more relaxed, happy and aware.

Focusing on various body parts and channelling concentration on making them feel warm and heavy is based on the ideas of Autogenic training which has been proven to treat various disorders. This kind of approach is also know as body scan meditation and is popular as part of the Vipassana tradition. Generally mindfulness meditation has been shown to provide a number of health and mind benefits.

Resources

A Guide to Psychology and Its Practice – Autogenics Training

Featured Image: Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci