Tag Archives: pranayama

The 52: Lesson Thirty Two — Can Your Breathing Heal Your Body?

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butterflyblueskyThich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk observed:

Breathing in, I calm body and mind.  Breathing out, I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment. I know this is the only moment.

Do you think it is important to calm the body and mind?  Do you think doing this and paying attention to your breath can actually, tangibly change your mental and physical health?

For most of us, breathing is just second nature.  We are born and we breathe.  We breathe everyday until we take our last breath and then we don’t breathe anymore.  With that last breath, our body, deprived of oxygen (and the life force), has lost its support system.  It “dies.”

Improper breathing is a common cause of ill health.

Andrew Weil, M. D.

Are you ready to take charge of your breathing, your body, your mind?

LESSON THIRTY TWO

BREATH AND THE BODY

This is not the first lesson in The 52 that has been devoted to the breath.  How we breathe is so important that many of us spend a life time learning the subtle nature of the breath.  The more we know about it, the more we observe how its functioning alters our health, how we think and how we feel.

Take the body first:  If you asked most people, they would tell you that they want a strong and healthy body, one that will take them through-out their lives without illness.  We may say this but do we do what is needed?  Setting aside the obvious — those who smoke or use their nose to knowingly inhale toxic substances — we forget that disease has a step up in a body deprived of oxygen.  Of course we know about lung diseases, but what about cell deprivation in all the cells of your body?  What if you never fully breathe? What if you breathe the wrong way?  What if you voluntarily stop breathing as a habit.

Does the health of your body matter enough to you to spend a little time learning to breathe?

You can learn to improve your breathing.  Try this:

  • Are you breathing all the way down into your belly? Or is your breath up there, high in the chest? Consciously, make yourself breathe more deeply, into the belly.
  • Is the breath fast and choppy instead of slow and steady?  You want it to be long and smooth.  Work on it!
  • Do you stop breathing?  When you do certain things or think certain thoughts or move your body certain ways?  Don’t stop breathing!  Keep it going.  When you “hold” your breath you deprive it of oxygen and throw off the rhythm.  Maybe you are “holding off” your life.
  • Don’t just check your breathing once or twice a day.  Do it a lot.  Give yourself some kind of reminder, a signal, something you see or hear and, each time, you are reminded to check your breath.  It isn’t a chore and won’t take much time.  Just do it!
  • Each time you breathe, take it as a blessing.  Breathe in love, clarity, good health, kindness, and breathe out illness, weakness, anger (or anything you want removed.

My favorite poet, the Sufi master of Divine Love, Rumi, wrote:

There is a way of breathing that’s a shame and a suffocation

And there’s a way of expiring, a love breath,

That lets you open infinitely.

What about you?  Would you like your simple breathing to change the quality of your life?  You have the power, you know!

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to http://www.deannemincer.com

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The 52: Lesson Fifteen – SIMPLY BREATHE

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butterflyblueskyYour breathing should flow naturally, like a river, like a watersnake crossing the water,

and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse.

To master breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds.

Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by other means,

the method of watching the breath should always be used.

Thich Nhat Hanh

How are you breathing?  Right now?  Do I seem to repeat myself?  Have you seen this another lesson? Yes, I do repeat myself.  Some lessons bear repeating.  We keep doing it until we do it right.  Paying attention to your breathing is one of these lessons.

We have already talked about this basic function of living — breathing — and how there are subtleties of breathing that often escape our attention.  How we breathe has a lot to do with how we feel and how we live our lives.  For example, if we breathe shallowly, up in the chest, we may be missing the depth of our being and our lives.  Or, if we hold our breath and stop breathing completely, we may be holding back our feelings and emotions.  The breath is a great teacher — if you take the time to notice.

We want to experience the pleasure of breathing.  The richness and joy of breathing.  The breathing is right there with you, all the time.  You can study your breath and learn a lot about yourself.  Remember, you are learning and witnessing, not judging or using breath as a way to castigate yourself.  “Oh, look at what a bad breather I am.”

Don’t go there, into judging.  Not ever.

LESSON FIFTEEN

HOW ARE YOU BREATHING THESE DAYS?

Here  is a simple way to watch your breath:

  • When you breathe, does it seem that the breath is jumpy, agitated, rough? Or it is soft and smooth?  Be a connoisseur of your breath quality.  If your breath is soothing, then your mind and body are being soothed as well.
  • Do you hold your breath between the inward and outward breath?  If so, try to keep it going, ever-moving like a wheel turning.
  • Are you aware of breathing all the way into the belly or do you hold it high up near the throat?  Drop it down and feel the lower torso expand.
  • Give your self a cue to keep checking your breath throughout the day.  At a certain time, (e.g. every half hour) or in a specific location, (e.g. when I take a sip of water).
  • When you have a few minutes, try counting your breath.  Inhaling, slowly and smoothly, to one count and out to the same count.  Try five and five, or more or less.  Increase the number over time.
  • Then try this count:  Five on the inhalation and ten on the exhalation.  Exhaling is the easier and requires less effort than inhaling.
  • Do this “breathing to a count” for several rounds.  You will begin to notice how much more the breath responds to you.

It is amazing to think that something as simple as breathing can help to guide us in our lives.  But it does!  See what happens when you and your breath work in tandem — all towards a lighter and happier YOU.  Remember that all of these practices are meant as acts of love — for yourself and for the energy you hold and exude.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to www.deannemincer.com and visit me on Facebook

The 52: Lesson Nine — Breathe and Meditate. Try It!

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Meditate:  Interrupt those fifty thousand daily thoughts.

This was the title of a blog post I wrote last year.  It is worth repeating.  Can you imagine that your mind is rambling away with that many thoughts a day?  What are we thinking?  How could we have so much chatter going on, just filling up our minds (and emotions and feelings too, by the way)?  Wouldn’t it be nice to take a break from all that blabber, most of which is repetitive and non-productive?  Well, you are in luck, you can take that break.  It is all within your power.  It is called meditation, and it could be the most important activity you will ever encounter in your life.

At the beginning of these weekly lessons comprising “The 52,” I promised I would offer you practices that would be simple and include reflections on the body, mind, breath,senses, and the loving spirit within each of us.  I hope you have realized that spending even a little time on any one of these lessons can have surprising results.  If you experimented with being quiet and stop “doing,” you may have felt your life make some subtle shift.  Keep at it!

LESSON NINE

BREATH AND MEDITATION

Here are some words to ponder, written by the renowned medical doctor and gifted spiritual writer and teacher, Deepak Chopra:

Meditation is not at all a way of making your mind be quiet;

rather it is a way of entering into the quiet that’ s already there,

buried under the fifty thousand thoughts an average person has every day.

What a relief!  The quiet is already there.  It is just waiting for you to slow down enough to notice.  And in that silent retreat, when you step out of the world for a bit of time, miraculous adventure awaits you. If you already meditate, you know this.  Good for you!

Meditation is, by the way, not some difficult or mysterious thing.  Millions of people meditate every day.  It does not require miraculous skills or even deep spiritual wisdom, yet it is life changing.

Here is the plan:

  • Choose a time, usually first thing in the morning, just before dinner, or at bedtime.  Make it known to anyone around you that this is to be YOUR time.  No interruption.  No TV.  No phones or IPads.
  • Choose a place to sit where you are not slumped over but with your back straight. If you are in a chair, place your feet flat on the floor. In yoga, we would say, with the head, neck, and trunk  in alignment.  Rest your hands on your thighs or fold them together in front of you. Have your thumb and first finger be in contact.  This keeps the energy within.
  • Close your eyes and pay attention to calming the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and lower back.  Imagine a stream of warming light moving down your body. Softening…
  • Now pay attention to your breath.  Feel the rising and falling, evenly inhaling and exhaling through your nose.  If the breath seems restless or agitated, try to imagine and feel it becoming smooth.
  • Keep focusing on the breath or on any comforting sound, like so ham or om, or any mantra you have used.  Now let the breath and the sound join together in a seamless path drawing you into silence.
  • Continue this for at least five minutes, once or twice a day.  Don’t be discouraged if you miss or your mind wonders (it almost certainly will).  Avoid feeling impatient or judging. Expand the time if you are comfortable doing so.
  • Just be.  Nothing to do.  Nothing to improve. Just be.

Remember, there is no such as a “bad” meditation, but each one may feel a little different from the others.  Just go with it.  Try this and see what happens.  There will be more encouragement in a few days.

Of course, in the meantime you are loving yourself completely NOW –as you meditate — and in every single thing you do.

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more, go to www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Lesson Eight — Still Judging Others?

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Dr. Wayne Dyer is one of the most prolific writers and teachers on the subjects of psychology, Divine Love, and the spiritual path.  I have enormous respect for the way he blends spiritual truth, venerable writers, gurus, and poet’s quotations, and his own unique humor and personal experiences into such a powerful message that seems to be applicable for all of us.  He said:

You do not define anyone with your judgment.

You only define yourself as someone who needs to judge

I heard Dr. Dyer speak at a Hay House event in New York City.  He held the audience spellbound for nearly three hours as he shared profound spiritual truths in the most simple language.  He described how, as he became aware that he had just judged someone, he decided to correct the situation then and there.  Many of us find judging so normal in our lives that we don’t even notice. We just engage the behavior, gossip, devalue others, pat ourselves on the back for our superiority. Or we notice and “fix” it.  Or maybe we see the judging starting, but we are tuned in enough to delete the behavior right away.  Then there is the step where the judging does not even start.  Where do you fit in this picture?

Let’s make it a lesson:

  • Do you find yourself routinely judging others, complaining, arguing without any conscious awareness of this behavior?  (Well, if it is unconscious, you might not be able to answer this part at all.) Let’s say you are in a check out line.  The person in front of you is slow at everything.  They can’t find their credit card.  You are in a hurry and are seething inside.  You might be calling them names to yourself or sighing and giving dirty looks. You think this is “normal” and you are justified.  What’s wrong with this incompetent fool, you might think.
  • Next step:  Do you see it happening and, rather than letting it go, you put a “check” next to the behavior.  Now you know you are doing it.  You notice how angry you are getting and act just as in the previous description.  But now you have noticed and something does not seem right to you.  You are not behaving “normally.’
  • Let’s say you notice it and it has affected another person.  Can you correct it right now?  You’ve noticed that the person is front of you in line is aware of your behavior.  She has heard you sighing and seen your angry face.  You stop and look at her.  You stop the behavior.  You say something like — I ‘m sorry, I am having a bad day or I don’t know why I am in such a rush or you give her some indication that you have calmed down and you mean it!  Maybe you even try to help her.
  • Now you see the judgement starting and you are aware enough to nip it in the bud. You just plain stop it! You know that this is a situation that would aggravate you.  Your blood starts to warm up but before it can start to boil you relax your body and your breathing and you back off.
  • Let’s say something happens, that would normally trigger your judging, like the scenario we are exploring.  You can let it go.  You can smile within and remember the old judging you and smile again at yourself.  Now the check out line becomes a pleasant and learning experience because YOU have made it so.  Congratulations!

Can you see yourself feeling softer, calmer, more loving.  Do you start to notice that you have a lot to do with how you see and experience your world?  Don’t you feel better?

I used the example of the check out line because it used to be a trigger for me!  My impatience and tight scheduling (along with a big dose of ego) would bring about those reactions.  How about you?  What is a trigger point for you? What might you find to use as a learning experience?  I’d like to know.  But I’m not judging!

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more information, go to www.deannemincer.com

The 52: Let Your Own Breath Change Your Life!

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Listen, are you breathing just a little

and calling it a life?

These are the words of the highly acclaimed American poet, Mary Oliver.  What about you?  Are you taking full advantage of the energy and power of your breath?  Do you pay attention to how you breathe?  In case you missed the last two posts, go back and look at the simplicity of the breathing exercises.  Just a little tweaking could change your life.

Now I ask you to appreciate the miracle of your breath.  Those with illnesses that affect their lungs know how important it is to be able to breathe.  We can feel grateful that we have this capacity.  Enjoy your breathing.  Feel the rising and falling as a constant wave of light and energy.  It carries the gift of life – oxygen.  In yoga, we say it carries what we call prana, the life force.  This prana flows with the oxygen into every cell of our bodies, replenishing and nourishing each one.  Thank you, you might say, to your breath.

Now we have one more lesson on how we breathe. 

  • For optimal health in breathing, we try to do what is called “diaphragmatic breathing.”  If you are breathing high up in the chest, you are not using your lungs to full capacity. Let’s check it out.
  • Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.  Is one hand moving and the other not? See if you can feel the belly hand moving more than the chest hand.
  • Notice this:  When you breathe in, does the belly (or diaphragm) go out?  And when you breathe out, does it collapse or go in?  This is what we want.
  • Many people are reluctant to have anything but a totally flat stomach, so they often learn to breathe improperly.  Mmmmm.  I wonder what is more important.

As always, be kind and compassionate with yourself.  No judging allowed!  Only witnessing!  Be patient.  Everything in “The 52” is meant to help you but is NEVER meant to set up a win/fail situation.  You do what you can and smile all along the way.

Remember to love yourself completely NOW.  After all, you have never in your whole life been apart from the kind of love we will talk about again soon.

I am always in your corner, breathing right along with you!

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more thoughts: www.deannemincer.com and please share this with your friends

The 52: How Are You Breathing Right Now?

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Now to breath! If you have started monitoring and altering your breath, as described in the last post, you are already seeing how this simple awareness can make you lighter and happier.  That’s the promise of this 52 week course in spiritual teachings. 

Most of us take our breathing for granted.  We just do it, without any thought of how we do it.  Did you know that there is an entire science to breathing.  In fact, in my yoga training, one of the books we studied is titled Science of Breath. If you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend this book.  It was written by the people who were my on site teachers in my studies of yoga.  It was a privilege to be surrounded by swamis and medical doctors and psychologists, all of them seasoned in yoga. What a multi-disciplinary approach to the “science” and philosophy of yoga!

Now for more breathing tips you might like to try:

  • While you are breathing, use this visualization:  Imagine that the in- breath is filled with bright healing light.  Feel it flow in through the nostrils, down into the lungs, then sense that it is spreading throughout your body.  You could visualise the light into every organ, tissue and cell — all the way out to the extremities.  Each cell is cleansed and bathed by the breath.
  • Now as you exhale, imagine the breath is carrying away anything you wish removed from your body — illness, pain, toxins, soreness.  Feel it flow out through the nostrils and flow completely away from your body.
  • Here is another:   Let each in-breath be bright with a golden light of love, bathing your entire body.  Then breathe out confusion, chaos, worry, sadness or any negative emotion.

These images can have potent power.  One time, a man was referred to me for special yoga practice.  He was suffering with intense back pain.  He had been advised to have surgery.  We engaged several of these breathing practices.  He described that his pain was totally gone.  Then, as often occurs, his ego and skepticism kicked in.  In a short time, I am sorry to say his pain returned.  He could not accept that something so simple could relieve his pain and that he had the power to do it. I never saw him again but was told that he decided on surgery. 

When the body, breath, and mind work in loving tandem, miracles can and do occur.  See what happens to YOU when you work with your breath.

In a few days, there will be more on the breathing.  Let me know how you are doing.  Remember, even though I have used these practices for a long time, I am following “the 52” right along with you and feeling results anew!

With love and namaste, Deanne

For more thoughts: www.deannemincer.com