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7 Tips to Slow Down & Relax This Summer
About Melissa Green
When we breathe in a rhythmic and audible fashion breathing in and out of the nose with the mouth closed, sounding like the waves of the ocean or Darth Vader, we are actually doing more than just breathing, we are stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. The breath is the steady part that resides within all of us. It is always there and automatically occurs whether we are aware or not.
Whereas most of its actions are involuntary, some, such as breathing, work in tandem with the conscious mind.
When we breathe in a mindful manner, it calms the autonomic nervous system, which consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are located in the portion of the brain stem entitled the medulla oblongata.
The sympathetic nervous system is fight or flight. This happens when we get stressed or have to run away from a bear, for example. Our heart rate accelerates, our breath is either rapid or non-existent and we feel tightness in our body. Most of us stay in this state of mind when we get in this state, we need to breathe and that is usually the first thing that. The parasympathetic nervous system is the relaxation response in the body.
Mindful breathing can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and help us come into a relaxed state of mind.
Last week we talked about default behavior. What do you do when life and events get a little heated. There are specific tools which yoga brings to the table to handle these default behaviors. When I feel myself getting stressed, or having a tight feeling in my belly which I have come to recognize as fear, I mindfully begin to breathe.
I learned from one of my yoga instructors, her method of staying calm and centered is to say to yourself as you are breathing, I am breathing in, I am breathing out as you inhale and exhale out of your nose. This self-talk brings mindfulness to the breath, which in turn calms the mind and the nervous system. I teach this to my own kids and when I teach yoga to children.
Having this simple, yet powerful tool, can turn a potentially crazy situation into a calm one by the use of the breath.
Let’s take a look at a theme today and use it in our every day lives. The theme today is, “What is your default when things get a little uncomfortable?” This can apply to yoga practice and life (off the mat). Do you flee, distract or indulge yourself, become angry, have fear? How do we know what our default is? Being mindful and learning to become an observer instead of a participant.
What is it that you are avoiding? The way we handle difficult things can be an opportunity for growth and can enlighten us about ourselves. Are we avoiding growth. What would happen if we embraced the growth and looked at the challenge straight in the face? Points to ponder for sure.
This concept can be helpful when instructing kids yoga. If they are acting crazy or distracted during certain poses that may be difficult for them, this may be their default behavior. This can be pointed out to them so that they become aware of their tendencies.
Remember that yoga is all about awareness. It requires focus on the breath, the body, the mind, and the spirit. Sometimes when we get uncomfortable we forget where we are and what we are doing and give in to our emotions, when it is best to step back and evaluate them. Practicing yoga and finding your breath is a great way to step outside of yourself and see things from another perspective, offering us enlightenment. Children are highly intuitive and have the ability to do this as well; even with their ever changing emotions. They just need to be guided in the right direction and taught how to recognize these emotions and perspectives, and how to deal with them in a positive and healthy way to prepare for the life ahead of them; where there will constantly be twists and turns and new challenges for them to conquer.
A great pose for recognizing your inner emotions and taking a step back is yogic sleep, which is in our ABC Yoga Cards for Kids Deck. Share your experiences and thoughts as well. We would love to hear them!