Slowing down in a fast-paced world.
Our lives are stressful at different levels. Hopefully we are not outrunning a lion, but rather getting a report done on time. The stress to your body is no less real. If we live in constant hyper-stress mode, our physical and mental state suffers. As with all things, balance is key. There are times when stress is needed and useful, but not all day every day.
“It can be argued that stress is the number one killer in the Western world today.”
The above quote is from Dr Timothy McCall. In his book Yoga as Medicine, he goes on to say, “… stress fuels some of the biggest health problems of our time, including type 2 diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, heart attacks and strokes as well as autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis. While there isn’t a lot of evidence that stress causes cancer, it appears to increase the odds of dying from the disease.”
Breathing slowly activates the body’s “relax and rest” response in the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of the nervous system responsible for relaxation. The sympathetic nervous system is the ‘fight or flight’ part.
This Beginning Breath Meditation can be done for just a few breaths, a minute, a few minutes or even longer. Too busy to be mindful? I recommend setting up an alert on your phone or other device. There are quite a few mindfulness apps that have that feature built-in.
Beginning Meditation on the Breath (short version 1 minute / long version 5 minutes)
To listen to a guided meditation on your breath, please click here.
- Find a comfortable seat. You do not have to sit on the floor in a traditional meditation pose. Sitting or lying down are great options.
- Let your eyes relax, let your jaw relax, your shoulders relax
- Bring your awareness to your breath, don’t try to control it at first (20 seconds / 1 minute)
- Begin to slow down your breath, inhaling for 4 counts, exhaling for 4 counts (20 seconds / 1 minute)
- Begin to slow down your breath, inhaling for 4 counts, exhaling for 8 counts to relax and rejuvenate (20 second / 2 minutes)
- If thoughts start to come up, label them as ‘thinking’, and bring your attention back to the breath (throughout)
- Once you feel calm, let your breathing return to its natural rhythm and continue on with your day