Intuition; Your Map to the Universe

Intuition is that little voice that tells us things that we wouldn’t normally know. Sometimes it leads to great transformation, sometimes it means I make my train. Either way I am better off listening to my intuition than I am ignoring it. Here’s why you will be too.

 

I usually get 4 questions when it comes to learning how to tune into intuition.

  1. What does that mean, “tune into intuition?”
  2. Does it really work?
  3. Do I have to shave my head and become a monk to do this?
  4. How do I start?

 

I’ll start with question number 3. No, you don’t need to be a monk, you don’t need to shave your head, nor do you

Blackboard concept for leaving your comfort zone behind and moving in to the real life

even need to be a vegetarian or vegan. As for question number 2, yes, it really does work, although it requires practice, patience and a willingness to step outside of what is likely your comfort zone.

 

What does it mean to tune into your intuition? I view intuition as the uplink to the universe. It demonstrates our connection to everyone and everything else. That little voice that speaks up and tells you something is a bad idea, or that turning left instead of right is the better choice. Intuition is our insight into the larger world at a deeper level of consciousness that has fewer prejudged filters in place.

 

I’ll share an example of one of the uses I have for my own intuition. I drive from my house to the train to commute to work. I drive the same route every day at the same time every day. One day as I am about to get in the lane to turn right, as I always do, I hear myself inside my head saying “go left today.” That was it. Three little words. But I listened, got in the lane to turn left and as I entered the intersection, I saw that there was a massive backup of traffic and if I had gone right, as I always did, I would have been stuck and missed my train. Instead, I heeded those three little words, went left and made my train.

 

Questions arises suggesting there were some other clues that might have prompted me to turn left. Not really. The traffic was moving fine and even the first few cars to turn right seemed like they were going to move as normal. There were no sirens, nothing on the radio, a normal day. Just that little voice in my head. To further reinforce it, I don’t like going left because it means I have to later turn left onto a two way main road that feeds the train station. And that is never a pleasant nor expeditious route so I take great care to avoid that route.

 

As for how to start tuning in, that’s the easy and hard part. All you have to do is listen. Quiet your chatty conscious mind and let the signals be heard. I say it’s both the easiest and most challenging because it sounds simple enough; quiet your mind. However that is one of the most challenging thing for us to do.

 

To help start you off, I have a few exercises to help get you going.

 

Exercise 1: Get comfortable with your own mind

Human head withred ladder to opened sky window

In today’s world of digi-distraction and the constant bombardment of visual and auditory stimuli, it’s very easy to avoid the tough questions and the fears that we collect in life. But the first step to being able to hear your intuition is clearing out this clutter. And the only way to clear it out is to face it.

 

To do this, I like long runs by myself with no electronics. My mind flits from thought to thought for a bit but it eventually gets bored. And when the mind gets bored, that is when all the nasty stuff starts bubbling up. Doubts, fears, limiting thoughts all undercutting our confidence and goals. But this is only a distraction technique. It isn’t real and once you can face these thoughts without retreating, you begin to silence them. Once you start quieting those negative thoughts, you make room for your intuition to be heard.

 

Exercise 2: Count your breaths

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

This one is deceptively more challenging than it appears. The concept is simple. Sit or lay comfortably and count your breaths. One to twenty-one. When you get to twenty-one, start over again at one. If you lose count, simply start again at one. Once you can make it through this exercise for at least 5 minutes (set a timer so you don’t have to worry about tracking that too) without losing track or chasing random thoughts and having to start over, you will have built your concentration skills up enough to begin the third exercise, learning to listen.

 

 

 

 

Exercise 3: Learn to listen

Image courtesy of Moyan_Brenn   / Flickr.

Image courtesy of Moyan_Brenn / Flickr.

If you’ve gone through the other two exercises, this one will be much easier than attempting it without them. When I describe the thoughts in my head, I think of them in terms of quality of thought. There are the garbage thoughts such as anything negative about myself or others, the whiney thoughts such as my muscles are tight don’t go for a run or the distracting thoughts such as I bet I can get the next level of Game X if I started right now.

 

Next come the medium thoughts such as I’m hungry, did I leave the stove on when I left the house or wow, I’ve got a lot of work to catch up on. While not detrimental, they are still distractions.

 

At the top are the high quality thoughts. These are the ones that are insightful, helpful, positive, and show me options to challenges I otherwise might not have come up with. This is where intuition lies.

 

Whether you like to sit at home, in nature or add this on to a meditation practice, sitting quietly and listening to your thoughts will move you in the direction of telling your thoughts apart. This exercise of just sitting with your thoughts allows you to listen to everything that is going on in your head and enables you to identify the higher quality thoughts from the lesser ones. This in turn allows for you to identify them in the midst of daily chaos when they come up again.

 

What’s next?

Going through the first two exercises taught you to quiet your mind and built your level of concentration so that you

group of man and women during hiking excursion in woods, walking in a queue along a path. Low section view

could start sorting the garbage thoughts from the rest. I was surprised to find so much extra room in my head when I started dumping the garbage thoughts. It was like driving around with your windshield completely dirty and then suddenly it’s clean and you can see where you are going.

 

It will likely take a little time to adjust to the “clean windshield” you’re developing. Something pops into your head and you question it or second guess it. I recommend taking note of those times, what the thought or direction was and what you did, with a note about how it turned out. It’s been my experience that in hindsight, those odd thoughts were some really good recommendations. You won’t always take them, and that’s fine. As you track your thoughts, you’ll learn to trust this new insight more.

10 Minutes To Get The Body and Mind Moving

Job, family, kid’s activities, dinner, home projects, pets and a million other things compete for our time every day. With all that noise and competition it’s tough to carve out time to take care of ourselves. Sleep deprivation is one option, and I’ve certainly used it in the past. But there are still days where even that isn’t an option.

 

Instead of stressing over missing a day (and for me, the grumpiness that fills my day), I have a quick (and in my opinion fun) way to get a little stretch and strengthen put back into the day. And it’s only 9 moves and 10 minutes. Full disclosure, this is not a super cardio, super stretch, ab ripping or other intensive set. It’s meant as a way to get the body (and energy) moving on days where there just isn’t time for anything else.

 

Empty Coat Sleeves (2 minutes):

Feet shoulder width apart, let the arms hang down at your sides like empty coat sleeves (hence the name). Start by slowly twisting side to side letting the arms flop against the body. Slowly increase the tempo and as you turn, let the opposite side heel come up. Play with the tempo and the slowly add breath to the movement. Inhale as you come to center, exhale as you twist. Start to slow the swings and let the arms come to rest.

 

Hip Circles (5 each leg each direction):

Root one leg into the ground, shift your weight to that leg, engage the abs in and up then inhale to float the opposite leg up, bent at the knee. Keeping the planted leg engaged, draw the largest circle you can with the bent knee. Reverse the circles. Slowly lower the leg, shift your weight to the second leg, and repeat on the second side.

 

Leg Balances – each leg about 15-20 seconds (2-3 sets):

Start as above, feet hip distance. Plant one leg, thigh muscles gripping the bone, engage the abs in and up and inhale to slowly float the other leg up, bent at the knee and hold while continuing to breath. Float the leg down, shift the weight to the other leg, and repeat on the second side.

 

Wall Push, each leg forward (3 sets, 10-15 seconds each):

Stand with palms pressed against the wall. Step one leg back a comfortable distance. Front knee is stacked over the front ankle, the rear leg is long and strongly planted into the ground. Engage the abs in and up, inhale and slowly exhale as you press into the wall (10-15 second) and release. Repeat two more times. Switch feet.

 

Low/High lunges – just a good stretch:

Starting with feet planted, hip width apart, step far back with one leg. Keep the front knee stacked directly over the front ankle. Place your hands either on the floor or a block for balance. Keep the hips square and lengthen though the spine. Keep your rear leg straight and slowly pivot up at the hip, lengthening the tailbone down. This is a great stretch for the hip flexors and thighs. Stay here for a minute or so and enjoy the stretch. Switch sides before moving on.

 

Standing Wide Angle Forward Fold – a good stretch and release the head to relax:

Start with the feet a comfortably wide distance apart, legs straight but the knees aren’t locked. Engage the abs in and up, lengthen through the spine and fold slowly from the hips. Only after folding as far as you can, release the hands to the ground (or blocks) and let your body fold down and release your head and let it just hang loose. Relax here for several breaths and enjoy the mini-inversion. To come out, place hands on ground or blocks and use your arms to push up to a flat back, bend the knees slightly and hinge up to standing. Walk the feet together.

 

Seated Forward Fold (legs together) for good stretch; keep back long:

Come to a comfortable seated position with the legs straight out in front. Lengthen through the spine and the heels. Engage the abs in and up and begin to hinge forward at the hips. Hold here for a few breaths. You can then release and fold forward, supported by your hands. Hold here and breathe. Engage the abs, press the palms into the ground to straighten your spine. Hinge up from the hips to finish the release.

 

Seated Twist (each side):

Leave one leg extended and lengthen up through the spine. Bend the other leg at the knee and place the foot to the outside of the extended leg. Keep the spine lengthened and slowly twist towards the lengthened leg. Breathe a few times and slowly release. Switch legs and repeat on the second side.

 

Savasana, focus on belly breathing:

Lie down on the floor on your back. Feet slightly more than hip width apart and let the feet fall open. Hands about 45 degrees from the body, palms up. Release and relax every part of your body. This may take a minute or two, but don’t rush. When you’re ready, focus on the lower belly. As you inhale, let just the lower belly blow up like a balloon filing with air. As you exhale, let the belly sink down towards your spine; repeat. Take as long as you want here, but to keep it short, about 10 breaths or so will do. To come out, turn slowly to the left, pause, then push up to a seated position. Pause again before standing up and moving on with your day.

 

And now you’re done. Short, sweet and just enough to get your body, energy and mind moving and staying sharp for as long as you need. As I said earlier, this isn’t a cardio blast by any means, but it will get you moving.

 

Once you are comfortable with the series, I encourage you to play with different types of breathing to either bring up or level out your energy and mind.

10 Reasons Yoga is Good for Men

Yoga has a long history of being beneficial physically, mentally and spiritually. On top of that, at one time yoga was also only taught to men. Interesting as that is, yoga today seems to be perceived as a woman’s domain. That small obstacle aside, what are the benefits that interest men today? How can yoga help me in today’s world where I don’t have the time or inclination to sit on the top of a hill all day, live in a cave at night and survive on nothing but meditation, the dew from a leaf and the energy of the universe? I’ve put together my top 10 benefits modern men get from yoga.

 

  1. Flexibility of both the mind and the bodycartoonbigguyyoga

In a world where we sit all day, every day in front of computers and in meetings, muscles tighten up and physically we lose range of motion in the hips, shoulders and back. Mentally, all that staring and concentrated focus leads to mental stiffness where we lose the ability to see things from other perspectives or points of view, diminishing creativity and problem solving. Flexibility from a yoga practice can counteract these effects.

 

 

  1. It pushes us out of our comfort zone

    Image courtesy of David Flowers

    Image courtesy of David Flowers

Physically yoga makes us stronger, more flexible and helps to keep us healthy. When paired with a structured breathing practice, yoga can also open up emotional locks. Growing up, boys are often taught that emotions are for girls and that the best way to deal with them is to stomp them down and lock them away. It’s how I grew up. Through my meditation and yoga practice, I learned how to let go of that control. I can now experience my emotions but not be ruled by them.

 

 

 

 

  1. It teaches humility

Standing or sitting in a class and listening to the instructor guide the class into a posture and think “you want me to put my >body part< where??????” Emotionally and mentally I find humility comes to me in the form of little life lessons. Something as simple as remembering to breath during stressful times, or something more profound, such as releasing resistance to change in my life.

 

  1. It teaches us to laugh at ourselves

There can never be too much laughter in the world. Laughter is contagious and an instant mood changer. Don’t believe me, try not to laugh or at least smile when a baby starts laughing. It just can’t be done. Learning to laugh at ourselves relieves stress, tension and things like fear, failure or embarrassment.

 

  1. It gets us away from everything electronic

    Image courtesy of mrsdkrebs.edublogs.org.

    Image courtesy of mrsdkrebs.edublogs.org.

Ironic, I know as I sit here writing this on my computer. However the benefits of disconnecting are numerous. Putting aside the gizmos opens up space for our friends, family and ourselves to come center stage in our awareness. Without the distractions of the next ping-like-tweet, insta-pin-snap-ring-whatever, allows for our brains to stop being digi-distracted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. It shows us it’s okay to take care of ourselves too

    Image courtesy of Moyan_Brenn   / Flickr.

    Image courtesy of Moyan_Brenn / Flickr.

As men we spend a lot of time taking care of others, especially our family. A very wise friend of mine once gave me some advice; don’t forget to take care of yourself. The point he made was that if I did nothing but give of my time, my energy, myself, I would very quickly burn out and have nothing left. At that point, I wouldn’t be able to be helpful to others. Instead, taking some time for myself, to take care of myself, would allow me the ability to stay charged and be able to continue helping family and friends.

 

 

 

 

  1. Strengthens muscles we didn’t remember we had

Take enough yoga classes, and no matter how fit you are, there will eventually be some class that either modifies a known posture, or introduces a new one that finds some muscle or muscle group we didn’t know we had. I don’t always realize it that day, but the next day, I feel it.

 

  1. It can help us be more patient (eventually)

    Image courtesy of like_shipwrecks    / Flickr.

    Image courtesy of like_shipwrecks / Flickr.

Standing or sitting still is tough. With technology that keeps everyone connected all the time, instant gratification just isn’t fast enough anymore. Sustaining a posture, a breathing technique (or both) allows us to move past the point of struggle and resistance to a point of acceptance. Not acceptance of things which are not good for us, but acceptance of change, acceptance of others and most importantly, acceptance of ourselves. That acceptance breeds a humble, strong mind.

 

  1. It can reduce stress

Feeling stressed or overwhelmed? Sweat and distraction are great cures for that. Getting the body moving opens up the muscles, ligaments and tendons. Fresh blood gets circulated throughout the whole body. Putting your entire focus onto the workout at hand opens up mental space to clear out preconceptions and allow for new points of view to be evaluated. I’ve solved more than one tough problem while on a yoga mat or out for a run.

 

  1. It teaches us to breathe

    Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

    Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

In, out, repeat. Breathing is automatic and happens without conscious thought. However, when we think about it, focus on it and guide it, breathing becomes much more than something that “just happens.” Breathing becomes a tool to unlocking our potential. Through breathing we can calm our body and mind. We can also use breath to energize ourselves and create focus and clarity.

 

Yoga is beneficial for pretty much everyone. I think the viewpoint that yoga isn’t for men or excludes men is very limited for both yoga and men. I believe a male perspective on yoga, the sutras and the like adds flavor and a unique view that might otherwise be missed.

 

With this list in mind, I encourage all the guys out there to try out a yoga class. I’ve posted before on ways to approach yoga classes and some translations for what gets said in those classes to make the introduction a little easier. Find a yoga class and if nothing else, just breathe.

The Experience of Options

This topic has come up many times recently, and I wanted to share. Options, and no, not stock options (although those are nice too), frame how comfortable we are in a situation. My wife recently posted about how she gets nervous when I drive, even knowing I would never do anything to endanger her or our daughter. And when she drives, she often feels frustrated and finds herself stuck behind slow or erratic drivers.scaredchickenclipart

 

In working through an advanced curriculum in her own coaching career, she determined that the difference was options. When I drive, I see options everywhere. Some options are better than others and based on where I am and where I want to be, I choose the best option available. When she drives, she doesn’t see as many options on the road as I do. So when she isn’t driving, the mismatch of perceived options makes my driving seem more daring from her perspective.

 

 

 

Applying this to a larger scope, take a moment and think about a time where you felt trapped or pressured in a decision. Keep thinking about that time and remember the number of options or choices you felt you had at the time. Now think of a time where you felt completely at ease in making a decision. And think of the number of choices you felt you had then. Odds are the more pressure you felt, the fewer options you felt you had, and vice versus. That has certainly been my experience.

 

The question becomes how to change what we perceive in order to be able to see more options. I have a few techniques that work for me.

 

Breathe – My go to method for dealing with almost anything. Take a moment (or more), step away from the situation and just breathe. Breathing settles the mind and the emotions and allows for decisions and reactions to be made from a place of choice and not reflex.

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Meditate – For the really big ones where I have time, I look at meditation as breathing on steroids. Same benefits of adding space and allow for shifts in reaction to become consciously chosen and not a habitual reflex.noncompete

 

 

 

 

 
Gut check – There has been a lot of buzz about the importance of our digestive system in overall health. I’m a big proponent of listening to my gut (instincts would be a good substitute here). Sometimes I will picture the scenario I’m in and choose one of my options. Then I wait for that tell-tale tightening that signals a less favorable decision. If I get a calm stomach, I’m probably on the right track.

Image courtesy of seeker9.com

Image courtesy of seeker9.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Make a list – Make a list of options you see. Make a second list of what the outcome you’d most like to see. Set the two side by side. Are there any options that get you to any of the acceptable results? If yes, you have a starting place for working towards your ideal resolution. If not, take a step and, breathe and think a little more. If all else fails, move on to the next one.

Some rights reserved by moonhouse

Some rights reserved by moonhouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Ask for help – I don’t know everything. Sometimes the options I see are limited by the fact that I don’t know enough about the topic. In those cases, I find a friend or mentor who knows more, and I ask for help. Not that they will make the decision for me, but they will be able to help me see more options so I can make choices that get me to or at least closer to my ideal outcome.

Image courtesy of pyrat_wesly.

Image courtesy of pyrat_wesly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Listen – I put this one in because it’s probably the most important tool. It is an essential component for all of the above to be successful. If you don’t listen to what you feel, to suggestions, to the other options that arise, you won’t be able to expand your available options and will likely remain stuck, see limited choices and feel frustrated and pressure.

Image courtesy of www.naturerocks.org.

Image courtesy of http://www.naturerocks.org.

 

Each of these can be used alone, or in groups (except for listen, which I advocate using in all of them). The thread that weaves all of them together is space. Making space for yourself to clear your mind, bring your full attention to your choices and see if you are able to lift some of the pressure, get creative and see the other options that might be available. Because the more options you see, the less pressure you’ll likely feel and the happier you’ll be with your choices.

Adding Breath

Breathing. Something we do automatically; without thinking. I’ve discussed different types of breathing and why it’s important in other posts. Today I’ll explore the effects of adding different breathing techniques to yoga (or anything else).

 

Breath is the central focus of many disciplines ranging from yoga to martial arts to various meditative disciplines. The reason for this is the impact that breathing has on, well,manwatchingtv

everything. For example, I can be sitting in a barcalounger and use a calming breath (ujayii, longer exhale than inhale, dirgha, to name a few) and it will settle my body and mind. Sitting in the exact same chair in the exact same position but using a more aggressive breath (kapalabhati, bellows, fire breath, short inhale/exhales, etc.) will result in my heart rate increasing and my mind becomes more alert. The difference is how I breathe.

 

First a little experiment. Sit comfortably, or lie down. Take a moment to connect to how you are breathing now. Notice if it’s fast and shallow or a slower more full breath. Next take inventory of your mind. Are you feeling sluggish and foggy, or is the monkey mind reigning at the moment. Depending on where you fall, go through the exercise below that most closely fits where you are in this moment.

 

 

 

 

 

Monkey mind:

Image courtesy of NASA

Image courtesy of NASA

To settle a monkey mind (you know the one; it jumps from thought to thought and never sits still, whirling around like crazy), I’ve found this breathing technique to be quite soothing.

 

Place your hands on your belly. As you inhale focus on your lower belly expanding like a balloon. On the exhale, feel the belly sink all the way back to the spine. Start with about a 4 second inhale through the nose and a 5-6 second exhale through the lips. Repeat this cycle until your breathing natural slows and allow it to move to a 5-6 second inhale/exhale pattern. When the breath gets to this point, gently seal the lips and breathe through your nose only. Continue this pattern as long as you like until your mind settles.

 

If your mind still won’t settle, begin to count the thoughts as they fly through your mind and let them go.

 

With time, patience and practice, I’ve found this to be a simple and highly effective method for calming the monkey mind.

 

 

Foggy mind:autoresponse

It’s been a long day, just after lunch and your ability to focus is sort of like looking through coconut oil; you know those days.

 

To refocus the mind and get your day back on track, here is a breathing exercise that I find helpful. Sit or lie comfortably, close your eyes and focus on your belly. Take deliberate, slightly forceful inhales filling your lungs about 75% of the way and then an equally forceful exhale emptying out about 90% of the air. Repeat this pattern for about 10-12 breaths. Slowly let a normal breathing pattern return and open your eyes. Open your eyes slowly and notice a new sense of alertness in your mind and body. If, during the forceful breathing, dizziness or a headache starts to occur, resume normal breathing immediately.

 

 

Now that you’ve seen first-hand the effects breathing can have on the body and mind, I want to explore how adding different breathing techniques can change the experience of things like yoga, meditation and even just standing.

 

For this post, I’d like to explore standing. That’s it, just standing, no funky twists, bends or contortions, just good old teeth brushing, dish washing standing.

 

To start, stand up. Find a comfortable standing position, weight even on both feet, knees straight but not locked, abs engaged in and up, chest loose, shoulders relaxed and lengthen through the crown of the head. From there, notice (no commentary, no criticism) where you are breathing. Chest, belly, all over. Lungs full of air or only partially. Now notice how you feel mentally. Alert and present or a little fuzzy and disconnected.menyogaclothes

 

Changing nothing else, start breathing using the Foggy Mind method above. Just a few minutes is enough. Now notice how you’re feeling. The same, or different? Hopefully you feel a little more alert and are breathing deeper into the lungs with each breath.

 

Now switch to Monkey Mind as described above. Again, a few minutes are all it takes. Notice the changes in your mind, in your emotions and breathing. Ideally you now feel calm, centered and steady.

 

If this didn’t work for you, I recommend trying it sitting (if comfort was an issue) or just trying it again but perhaps for a longer period of time. Once you do start feeling the differences, breathing (at least for me) becomes this fun, fascinating tool that I can use to augment pretty much anything in my daily life and not just on a yoga or meditation mat.

 

These are two very simple breathing techniques layered with a simple posture. I encourage you to play with other types of breathing and to do it in other “postures” and situations. The effects are often unexpected and spectacular.

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

Yogic Breathing; A Little Deeper Exploration

Yogic breathing is healthy and good for us and something we do at the end of a yoga class while planning dinner, the next meeting or what to do this weekend.  Well, at least that is where I started.  I have since spent many years exploring the different types of breathing (who knew it wasn’t just breath in, breath out, repeat) and offer a breakdown of the different breathing techniques and some ideas on how to benefit from their use.

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

To that end, I have divided up seven techniques into three categories.  Foundational breathing techniques, Energizing breathing techniques and Calming or Meditative breathing techniques; each has its own set of benefits, contraindications and uses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foundational breathing techniques; a great place to start getting in touch and learning to guide breathing.

Dirgha – 3 Part Breath – A foundational breathing technique that opens the full capacity of the lungs.  It focuses on getting the practitioner in touch with their breathing and opening up the lungs to their fullest capacity.  By concentrating on getting the diaphragm moving, this lays the foundation for full, deep breathing all day long.

Image courtesy of Hartwig HKD h.koppdelaney \ flickr.

Image courtesy of Hartwig HKD h.koppdelaney \ flickr.

Ujjayi – Ocean Sounding Breath – This foundational breathing technique can be used on its own or layered on top of other techniques.  It involves constricting the back of the throat slightly which produces an ocean sound when you breathe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Energizing breathing techniques; great for increasing your energy, focus and concentration.

Kapalabhati – Active Exhale/Passive Inhale – I like this one because it is a quick and easy “pick me up” when I am feeling a little sluggish.  Quick forceful exhales and passive inhales are easy to do, inconspicuous (for those train rides) and have quick results.

Alternate Nostril Kapalabhati – Alternate Nostril Active Exhale/Passive Inhale – The same as above, except using alternate nostrils for inhale and exhale.

Image courtesy of cirquedumot.com Page by Susan Silver.

Image courtesy of cirquedumot.com Page by Susan Silver.

Bhastrika – Active Inhale and Exhale – Also known as Bellows Breath.  This is in my experience the fastest acting energizer.  Not to be done before bed because it is likely to keep you awake.  But looking for something to combat the 2pm sluggishness, this is my breathing technique of choice.

Although bellows breathing is a safe practice, stay tuned in to your body during the process. If you feel light-headed or very uncomfortable, stop for a few moments before deciding to resume in either a less intense manner or a less intense breath.

 

 

Meditative breathing techniques; excellent ways to calm and center your mind.

Nadi Shodhana – Channel Purifying Breath – This is an alternate nostril breathing technique.  The work is typically done with the right hand.  It starts by closing off the right nostril and inhaling through the left then switching to exhale.  The change of open nostril is done on the exhale.  I typically like to start with a foundational breath before moving into Nadi Shodhana.  This is a great breathing technique, but I strongly recommend that you keep a tissue handy and/or clear your sinuses before starting…..

Image courtesy of www.wikihow.com.

Image courtesy of http://www.wikihow.com.

Many traditions teach a ratio of inhale to exhale time.  In the beginning, this may cause mental tension.  I generally recommend that beginning students let their breath happen naturally.

Anuloma Viloma – Smooth Alternate Nostril with Holding time.  Anuloma Viloma takes Nadi Shodhana and adds a hold time between inhale and exhale.  The benefit to the hold time is to draw the senses further inward and create a more introspective mindset.  As with Nadi Shodhana, keep some tissues handy and clear the sinuses before you begin.  Because the goal of this is to create a deeply meditative state, I like to start with foundational breathing, move to Nadi Shodhana and only after I have a smooth and long breathing cycle will I move to Anuloma Viloma.

 

 

There are a lot of resources available on the internet and in yoga and meditation schools that can be resources for your own explorations.  In upcoming posts, I’ll delve into each of these individually over the next few weeks in greater detail.  These breathing techniques along with a steady meditation practice are fantastic ways to improve health, feel better and live happier.  And better, as the instructor in the next yoga class starts flying through the breathing techniques, you’ll have a great reference to what they are talking about.