The Breath

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I’m on the couch with a heating pad and a dog and a laptop. The snow, still more snow, is swirling around outside and I just stumbled on this beautiful short film.

reathing is at the essence of being human, but not just because it keeps us alive. Like laughter and facial expressions, breathing is something of a global language, capable of communicating a surprisingly wide and nuanced range of emotions without a single word.

This collection video from The Mercadantes, the husband-and-wife filmmakers Daniel and Katina Mercadante in California, explores the human breath and its innumerable forms – from the first gasping cries of a newborn to the sighed relief of a well-earned chance to rest.

If you haven’t taken a deep breath today, I highly recommend it.

Watch the film here.

It’s a Yang, Yang, Yang, Yang World

chandra namaskar

This morning I felt plagued with challenges. I have to caveat this and say I feel guilty about saying that. Everything is fine. Life is good. Better than good. But it was just one of those days, before 8 am.

So I rolled out the mat and got to moving and breathing. There was no cardio today. No sweating or grunting. It was a lunar flow kind of morning.

I’ve written about Chandra Namaskar before. There’s just something about this practice that helps me slow down and reconnect. I’m not saying I tune in and get all the answers. Because I certainly don’t. But even half way through my practice I started to feel more calm, more grateful. I felt less like a whirling dervish, panting and grasping for answers. And I felt a little bit more like myself.

There are many variations of Chandra Namaskar, but here is one from Yoga Journal that might be helpful.

Image from Ethical Ideal in a post about yoga for back pain. Bonus!

This & That: Grounding

mug junkie

Feeling a little manic? Try forward fold to calm the mind and go inside.

Uttanasana

Standing Forward Bend is a grounding pose that can calm anxiety and, along with the breath, quiet the mind. You’ve got both feet rooted solidly into the floor and your head reaching down toward the earth. I feel like it’s an incredibly grounding posture, and introspective too. I always like the folding-in-on-oneself poses to help me feel calm and protected.

Forward folds are not for you if you have high blood pressure, but for most of us it’s an incredibly helpful posture.

First image is from Mug Junkie and the image of uttanasana from Jennifer Elliot Yoga.

This & That: Balance

Feeling a little off kilter lately? It happens to the best of us. Try nadi shodana pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) to get you back in balance.

Focused pranayama used to be a part of my daily practice, and then it kind of, well, just slipped off the radar. But this morning I really felt a pull to do some nadi shodhana. They say it is balancing and purifying. For me, I felt calmer and more focused.

First image is from The Huffington Post and the second is from Noda Yoga. And if you think I didn’t spend at least a couple of minutes watching models fall on the runway, then you are mistaken.

Nurturing

One of the things we talked about at the retreat was prioritizing self-care. Putting the oxygen mask on yourself first, so to speak. It’s so easy to skip this step. Or to do things to wind down that don’t really nurture us. Uhm, Pinterest anyone?

This is how I do this – and it’s not always well. But I made a commitment to myself to start my day by moving. It can be yoga or hula hooping, running around with the dog or dancing – it doesn’t matter. Do I skip some mornings? Yep. And it only serves to remind me that if I start my day by choosing to move around – not just shuffle to the shower, shuffle to the closet, shuffle to work – I’m more likely to KEEP moving, and have a better day.

Here are some easy, FREE ways to keep moving:

Take a Break: Download a quick 5 minute led practice.Kripalu Yoga Break offers postures, breath work and guided meditation in short bursts for when you need a little break, but don’t have the time or inclination for something hefty.

Walk it Off: Seriously. There’s no link here. It just means go for a walk. That’s it. Get up. Walk around. Outside is better than inside. Sometimes I even take my shoes off. Shhh. Don’t tell.

Download: I’ve plugged these guys before, but Yogadownload offers such an amazing service, I have to mention them again. Download a free 20 minute podcast every week, or pay for longer classes. They have audio, and video too if you like to watch your teachers.

Dance Party: A song is usually less than five minutes long. I bet you have five minutes to shake your groove thing.

We Have the Technology: I’m usually on my phone and computer ALL day long. Are you? Use it to your advantage. Change your email password to one of the yamas and niyamas. Change your phone ring to say “Breathe.” Block off a 15 minute meeting every afternoon to get up from your desk and go outside. I don’t always do this either, but I’m glad when I do.

Meeting Maker: This applies to EVERYTHING listed above, or whatever other nurturing activities you come up with: schedule it. There are some days when if it’s not on my calendar, it’s not happening. This is the exact same point I made above – it’s about priorities. It’s about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first, before you can help others. Refilling the well, as we say.

How do you fill the well?