Oh how magical it is to return to breath to calm ourselves down, deal with stressful situations, feel into our emotions without reacting, and even birth a child in natural flow.
The power of the breath is phenomenal, after all it's our life force that keeps us alive, and when we use it properly it promotes incredible inner peace, connection with the whole, and longevity.
This current solar eclipse is a turbulent time for many of us. It could feel like your world is falling apart, or you're trapped in the same habit cycles over again, or perhaps you feel stagnated and are unsure how to move forward. Yet in this turbulence we are given a greater opportunity to grow and strengthen, and it all starts with our return to the breath.
But just how easy is it to breath properly? And what is the correct method that you should adapt in not only these times of uncertainty but as an everyday practice? I've been asked about how easy it is to sit and just "feel" by one of our Instagram followers today, and it certainly is a fair question. Many healers and astrologers will advise us to sit with the breath over the next few days, combined with writing down our manifestations and intentions for the next six months to truly take in the energy of the eclipse. In particular, writing about how your manifestations will make you feel will have a much more profound result than simply jotting down a list of things you want to do or achieve.
So back to the breath. Where the hell do we start? Well first, let's look simply at what is happening to our mind-body connection when our life is suddenly filled with turbulence. On the physical level, we are likely to see an elevation in our heart rate, or for a better word, we start to feel anxiety. Most of us react once we reach this state either in fight or flight mode, but it doesn't have to be this way.
Learning how to stimulate your vagus nerve, which acts as the mind-body connection and controls your relaxation response, will serve you wonderfully in life. The vagus nerve is the most important element of the parasympathetic nervous system; the one that calms you down by controlling your relaxation response. The vagus nerve connects your heart's emotions and gut instincts, and by activating the calming nervous pathways of the parasympathetic system you'll learn a valuable skill in managing your mind state and anxiety levels.
Some might know this technique from yoga classes, and it is most certainly a breath associated with many yoga and Taoist practices, as well as some forms of Taoist Qigong. You are able to stimulate your vagus nerve with Ujjayi, and it has certainly become my turbulence "go to" breath - I am the first to admit that I don't use it enough but this eclipse has brought up situations in my life where I've had to dig deep into my Ujjayi breath and the results are somewhat magical.
Ujjayi breath begins as you first fill the lower belly with breath through the nose which activates the first and second chakras, then move the breath up toward the lower rib cage activating the third and fourth chakras, and finally move the breath right up into the upper chest and throat.
Also known as the "ocean breath", both inhalation and exhalation are both done through the nose and as your glottis in the throat passage is narrowed as the air passes in and out a deep "ghhhh" sound is expelled.
Here's the time and speed that I like to practice which will have profound results on calming your body and mind and strengthening your diaphragm:
Breathe in for four counts;
Hold for four;
Breathe out for four.
Repeat for 8 rounds.
I find the best time to turn to this breath is when you start to feel your heart beat rising and emotions churn inside your body. Before you react, go immediately to the breath. A round of 8 counts of Ujjayi will calm you down to a place where you can then continue for more rounds of 8 and sit in inner peace until the turbulence subsides. By bringing this practice into your daily routine you will learn how to not only apply it in times of stress, but also you'll notice your daily levels of calm increase. This is the beginning of your path of ultimate surrender, living in tune with your body and not being overwhelmed by your thoughts, thus allowing you to act out of love and not reaction.
So now you have a simple tool to use whenever emotions arise and you feel your thoughts taking control. But what about diving deeper? Last year I was first introduced to the charismatic, inspiring and brave soul "The Ice Man" Wim Hof thanks to a great special by VICE.
With a swag of Guinness Book of Records for withstanding extreme temperatures, Wim has become somewhat of a household name, having climbed Everest and Kilimanjaro in only shorts and shoes, stayed comfortably in ice baths for hours, and run a full marathon in the highest desert (50 degrees celsius, 122 Fahrenheit) with no water or food.
The key to his daredevil successes is through the use of a breathing technique that allows you to control the autonomous systems of the body. He dubbed it: "The Wim Hof Method,"
An incredible aspect of Wim's breathing method, discovered after he suffered extreme trauma following the suicide of his wife who suffered greatly from depression, is the ability for the practitioner to consciously control the immune system to fight off diseases. Our immune system plays a significant role in almost all devastating diseases plaguing the modern world, and finding a way to improve it can help us discover new avenues for medicine.
Whilst Wim has studied yoga and meditation for many years, The Wim Hof Method is something else entirely, and is a gift, he believes, from "cold hard nature." By subjecting himself to the bitter conditions of nature, he learned to withstand the extreme forces of cold, heat and fear. Wim has been working hard with scientists and university students to prove beyond any doubt that this method and its results are available for anyone.
The first part is a breathing exercise which can be likened to controlled hyperventilation, but rather than this breath pattern being involuntary, The Wim Hof Method invigorates and makes us high on oxygen without being triggered by stress or circumstance. The result is complete oxygenation of your blood and cells.
The easiest way to learn and practice this on a daily basis is by downloading The Wim Hof Method App.
So there you have a little bit more knowledge of the breath and the magic it can add to your life. I hope you'll bring these practices into your daily routine and remember that a clean vessel will only raise the sensitivity of the connection between body and mind making it easier for you to become aware of when you're feeling overwhelmed with thoughts, stress, and turbulence. A plant-based diet will enhance this sensitivity and help you come home to the breath more frequently and effectively.