In our most recent blog post, we highlighted the importance of mindfulness to our bodies and health.
Over-stimulation is a common state of being in our modern world. This makes the practice of ‘being here, right now’ an experience which can reduce our anxiety and depression as well as enhance our cognitive flexibility.
To become more mindful during your summer holidays, we encourage you to slow down and breathe. Breath is a central piece of our lives and yet we are so often disconnected or unaware of how we are breathing. Read on for some easy-to-implement breathing techniques for your summer holidays!
First, Slow Down
A really easy way to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life is simply to slow things down.
Slow down eating your meals and really take the time to taste the food.
Slow down your walk to work/college and take the time to notice your surroundings.
Slow down your quick responses to interactions.
Whatever you’re doing, and wherever you’re going, challenge yourself to observe one new thing every day, and you’ll be amazed at how much calmer you feel.
When we slow down, we automatically become more mindful and our attention gets more focused on the task at hand. This not only optimizes our levels of productivity, but also our enjoyment levels!
There are several methods which are effective in helping us to slow down and boost mindfulness, some of which include:
- Breath control
- Getting sufficient sleep
- Minimising distractions
Let’s dive into the first method, breath control, to better understand its value to calming our bodies and minds.
For many people, breathwork (or pranayama as it’s called in yoga) is a vital tool which helps them to slow down and become more mindful. I’m going to talk you through some very easy techniques you can practice whenever and wherever you find yourself getting anxious, stressed, and disconnecting from your present moment.
Mindful breath technique 1: Sama Vrittior or “Equal Breathing”
This technique uses equal inhales and exhale lengths to balance out breathing.
How it’s done: Balance can do a body good, beginning with the breath. To start, inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath. Got the basic pranayama down? More advanced yogis can aim for six to eight counts per breath with the same goal in mind: calm the nervous system, increase focus, and reduce stress.
When it works best: Anytime, anyplace… but this is one technique that’s especially effective before bed. If you have trouble sleeping, this technique can help take your mind off the racing thoughts or whatever might be distracting you from sleep.
Mindful Breathing Technique 2: Abdominal Breathing Technique
This technique is great for opening the airwaves and expanding the lungs as increased oxygen flow to the brain has been proven to also affect alertness!
How it’s done: With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm (not the chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal is to take six to ten deep, slow breaths per minute for ten minutes each day to experience immediate reductions to heart rate and blood pressure. Keep at it for six to eight weeks, and those benefits might stick around even longer.
When it works best: Before an exam, or any stressful event. But keep in mind, those who operate in a stressed state all the time might be a little shocked how hard it is to control the breath when they finally turn attention to it!
Mindful Breathing Technique 3: Nadi Shodhanaor “Alternate Nostril Breathing”
Another yogic breathing technique, this one uses alternate nostril breathing to equalize the amount of oxygen received by both sides of the brain.
How it’s done: A yogi’s best friend, this breath is said to bring calm and balance, and unite the right and left sides of the brain. Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril.
When it works best: Crunch time, or whenever it’s time to focus or energize. Just don’t try this one before bed: Nadi Shodhanais is said to “clear the channels” and make people feel more awake.
We hope that you enjoy practising these breathing techniques over the summer holidays. Cultivating a practice of slowing down and breathing during the more relaxed summer months will help you thrive when the busy fall season strikes!