How to Breathe
By Leah Shannon
I have been (and in some ways continue to be) one of those who find the practice of meditation “daunting.” Most probably because I have always had this perception that its such an esoteric practice, saved only for the most enlightened and most yogic. I’ve always thought myself too pedestrian to even think I could achieve that state of “bliss.” And I thought that it would take a long investment in time to even have a peek into this Delphic state. So I didn’t even *really* try.
Until last year when I went through a particularly difficult time. I was on the right side of desperate so I decided to have courage and give it the old college try. And because I have tried before to “picture an apple” or recite a mantra to no success, I decided that maybe, a guided practice would be the best way to start. After all, 10 years ago, when I started my yoga practice, it was with the guidance of what is now mega-Gaiam. And it took a while to build up my knowledge, confidence and intuition so that I can actually practice yoga on my own.
I downloaded guided meditations from Jon Kabat-Zinn and Dr. Andrew Weil. Both are individuals I have such admiration for, for the contributions they have made to mind/body healing. [Please spend time and Google them if you have not encountered them in your journey.]
I situated myself in a quiet place, and decided to do Dr. Weil’s breath work. All six exercises, about 15 minutes. I set my intention and began. I opened myself. After about 10 minutes, I slowly felt this sense of lightness and presence. I felt my breath, the air, myself. I saw lightness. Lightness. Light. It is all I can think of. And then I stopped because I was more than a little surprised because while I set my intention and expected it — I didn’t really know what to expect. Now this didn’t happen for a protracted period of time – please don’t think that you have to expect a recondite realization in one sitting. It was more of a sense of awareness and awakeness. And a step closer to understanding Prana.
Prana is a subtle invisible force. It is the life-force that pervades the body. It is the factor that connects the body and the mind, because it is connected on one side with the body and on the other side with the mind. It is the connecting link between the body and the mind. The body and the mind have no direct connection. They are connected through Prana only and this Prana is different from the breathing you have in your physical body.
– Swami Chidananda Saraswati
I continue to do breath work everyday and guided meditation as often as I can. Breath work centers me, calms me, it resets my nervous system. Twice a day I do the 4-7-8 breath. I also do the alternate nostril breathing technique and the one-minute bellows breath meditation.
These are simple meditative breathing techniques that are great gateways to the practice. I hope you take a few minutes to try them.
“People who meditate regularly may find that the practice yields many subtle benefits. Over time, meditation may result in a restructuring of the mind that allows you to detach from the thoughts that cause emotional swings. It can even have the effect of leveling out mood cycles, and help you learn to do things more effectively – whether it is cooking, writing or martial arts. Overall, you may find that you become mindful – more aware of everyday aspects of your life – and able to bring more awareness to everything you do.
And of course meditation has beneficial effects on physical health. They include enhancement of immune function, lowering of blood pressure, and relief of chronic pain due to arthritis and other disorders.” Dr. Andrew Weil
Leah Lizarondo Shannon is an Integrative Nutrition Counselor and Food Educator. She founded FullWell and works with the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine as a Food for Life instructor. More information at www.befullwell.com