Originally posted in 2015, this is a message that I felt bears repeating.
Some days are so hectic that my mind gets excited from all the activity. Initially this excitement feels good, but at times my mind gets over-stimulated, then my nervous system becomes agitated and my internal state changes from enjoyment to annoyance. At those times, when my nervous system is stirred up, I find it helps to take a breather.
A breather is a minute or two of sitting still and focusing the mind on the smooth flow of the breath. Doing this is very relaxing and calms mental agitation. Relaxing the muscles, from the top of the head to the toes deepens the experience. Just two minutes of this practice has a beneficial effect.
One of the most relaxing places for me is the beach. I love lying and listening to the calming rhythmic sound of the waves flowing in and flowing out. Taking a breather gives me the same pleasant relaxing experience without having to go anywhere. The rhythm of the breath is happening all the time in the body and so all that needs be done is to turn the attention to it.
Would you like to try a breather now? It won’t take long.
Simply sit and become aware of the sensations of your body from head to toe. You may do this exercise at first with eyes open to read these instructions. Once you’ve practiced several times and know what to do by heart, then do the exercise with eyes closed to deepen the relaxing effect. Feel how your body expands and contracts as you breathe. Feel how the breath flows out and into your nostrils as you breathe.
As you continue to feel your breathing, bring your attention to your forehead and, on your next exhalation, let any tension that is in your forehead relax.
On an exhalation, relax the hinges of your jaw. Relax your mouth.
Continue to relax the following parts of your body on exhalations:
your shoulders all the way to your fingertips;
from fingertips to shoulders;
the center of your chest;
your thighs, and then all the way to your toes.
Now, continuing to feel the flow of the breath, in and out, on exhalations relax the following parts of your body:
from toes to thighs;
the center of your chest;
your shoulders, and then from shoulders to fingertips;
fingertips to shoulders;
your face and forehead.
Now simply feel the sensation of the breath coming into your body and flowing out of your body for the next minute. One minute of feeling the breath flowing out and flowing in.
Then, slowly open your eyes and notice how your feel.
That’s the practice.
Do you feel more relaxed and centered?
My preceptor, Swami Veda Bharati, suggested taking short breathers several times a day. Doing so provides an opportunity to feel more rested and enjoy life more.
Be still, feel the flow of breath, and relax into yourself.