There is wisdom to be discovered and remembered in your body. When you move into a place of appreciating and loving your body, connecting to its natural cycles, you tap into the healing potential that is there.
The role of your body is to anchor you in your life experience, moment to moment, every day, again and again. The body is there to connect you to life, to experience a sense of aliveness, and allow you to enjoy what this world has to offer. When your body doesn’t function optimally, it becomes a messenger of something that is asking for your attention. All your body really wants is balance, and it tries to maintain this through the repair and rejuvenation systems in the body, which include the hormonal and immune systems.
One of the most basic ways to help your body to stay balanced, is with a tool all of us have available to us in every moment. The best things in life are free, right? This tool is with you from the first moment of your life, and will be there until your very last. This intimate companion is your breath. By noticing the quality of your breathing and learning to breathe consciously, you can change your life experience from feeling stressed and tired, to feeling relaxed, calm and energised.
We basically function in two modes – either feeling stressed or being relaxed. When you feel stressed, you trigger the sympathetic leg of the autonomic nervous system: your muscles feel tense, your breathing becomes shallower, your digestion slows down and the levels of inflammation rise, all of which cause a whole cascade of negative reactions in your body. You are in constant ‘fight or flight’ mode. You will also grow older much more quickly, with a greater chance of developing a chronic disease. 70-80% of diseases develop because of chronic stress.
However, when you learn to relax, the parasympathetic leg of the autonomic nervous system is triggered: your blood vessels open up so that oxygen can get to all parts of your body, your heart rate slows down, you breathe more easily, and you and your body actually perform better in everything you need to do.
Many things can push you into survival mode: unhealthy food choices, lack of exercise, not enough sleep, disharmonious relationships, or unresolved emotions. Your perceptions and beliefs about life also play a role. Also important to remember is that what is stressful for one person is no sweat off the brow of another. It is a little bit like being on a rollercoaster ride. Some people (usually the ones in front) will be having a fantastic ride, wanting to go faster and higher. Others will be holding on for dear life at the back, wishing the nightmare would end soon.
Your body will always tell you whether you are balanced or not. Aches and pains, low energy levels and a general lack of enjoyment of life might all be an indication that you need to start changing some things.
Using your Breath to Relax
Find a spot where you will not be interrupted. Try to sit in the same place every day. Sit in a comfortable position. Make sure that:
a. Your back is long and supports itself.
b. Your shoulders are relaxed downward, your neck is long, and your chin is pointing neither up nor down.
c. Your face is relaxed.
Start by inhaling quietly through your nose and exhaling through pursed lips, making a loud exhaling noise, a kind of whoosh. Do that a few times to get comfortable with exhaling through your mouth.
After you have done this a few times, exhale completely through your mouth. Then inhale quietly through your nose to the count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale though your mouth for a count of eight. Got that? Inhale for four, hold for seven, and breathe out for eight. Repeat the cycle four times.
It is important that your exhalation must last for a count of eight, so breathe out slowly, and do not blow it all out in the first few seconds.
At the end of four breath cycles, just breathe normally and notice how your feel. When you repeat this simple cycle of breathing at least twice a day, you will start to reap the benefits of this simple, but powerful technique very soon. It is a powerful anti-anxiety technique to use throughout the day too.
After a month, you can increase the number of cycles to eight, twice a day. Don’t do more than eight at a time, and stop when you feel lightheaded.
Balance is one of those magical, slightly evasive concepts we know we should have in our lives, but do we really know what it means?
Make time to notice how your body feels, and create a daily practice to find your way back to balance. When you find that marriage of inner quietness with outer activity and have just the right amount of both in your day, you will find the sweet spot. And your body will tell you so too.