Breathe, Nature and Keep active (Winter wellbeing tips)
I am checking in to see how you are, my friends.
Can we please PAUSE here? Now Take a deep breath. Generous breath in. PAUSE. Calm breath out. PAUSE. Repeat few more times.
How do you feel?
Maybe body feels a little looser. Maybe you feel slightly more centered. Maybe life feels a tiny bit easier by simply pausing and breathing consciously. I think so! Why? Keep reading..
When we consciously breathe, we tend to use the diaphragm to do so. Diaphragm is one of the few parts of the body which bridges the conscious and unconscious, meaning they are under dual control. That is, they can be controlled by both the somatic nervous system (conscious control) and the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Therefore, they can have a powerful ability to access your unconscious and regulate its function, and perhaps even re-write any unwanted unconscious programs, such as stress responses.
One of the most powerful elements of the diaphragm is its connection to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). PNS is part of the ANS – rest and digest (PNS)versus flight or fight (SNS) response. We need both, balanced. Although it is said that the modern lifestyle makes it difficult to switch off the SNS response and lean more towards the rest and digest state, due to mentality, fast paced and stimulative lifestyle.
There is no way to directly connect to the PNS. As a part of the ANS, the PNS pathway is controlled entirely involuntarily, although we can influence this system indirectly. The diaphragm is one of the most powerful indirect influences on the PNS. It sends signals out from the PNS to the internal organs telling them when to perform their functions.
So, to have a well-functioning body with clear mind, we merely need to be practicing diaphragm breathing. It is simple but hard to do.
What Yoga practice gives us is the ability to tap into our conscious self to breathe calmly using our diaphragm in a challenged position with a controlled environment, for many styles of Yoga. We train ourselves to create false threat but to stay calm. Of course, the added benefit of releasing tension, stress and build strength and flexibility in the body and mind cannot be ignored.
What are you waiting for? Get on the mat and have a PAUSE and BREATHE.
Power of Nature
I was lucky to be away for several days last week and I headed to nature. Although we are so lucky here in Sydney with many gorgeous parks and beaches close to us, it just can’t beat being away from the sound of traffic and electronics, stimulating lights and information, and completely immersed in raw nature.
In Japan, we call Forest therapy, “shinrin-yoku” which is a household phrase. It literally translates as “forest bathing”, immersing oneself in nature for increased wellbeing. It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. It seems like a no brainer but there have been proven researches done and shown the reduction of cortisol levels, our stress hormone, which can last for several days. You switch off your mind, melt into nature, and let the forest’s healing hands do the rest.
Why not take yourself out for a big walk about, away from the city, this weekend?
I am incorporating “shinrin-yoku” in my Japan retreat in November. Please check out in my event page.
I spoke in my last newsletter that winter is period to go inward, nurture and restore. But that doesn’t stop yogis from being active! As the cold weather hits the body hard - our joints, muscles and tissues will stiffen up. Let’s keep moving. Going for a walk in the nature, cycling, running, or going to a yoga class is great. But you cannot beat a daily home practice. Start small, like doing 2-5 cycles of sun salutation shown below! If you have practiced me, you would have practiced this sequence. I am a big fan of going slow and taking it simple. Be sure to check out the modified version (video below) I highly recommend starting the first 2 cycles there and go into your full expression of the postures when warmed up.