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Pause & Breathe

I suffered from anxiety and depression for most of my life. At one point in my life I couldn't even get out of bed. I didn't want to exercise, or hang out with friends, or family. I felt trapped in my own mind. I spoke with my doctor who prescribed anti-anxiety medications. One of the side effects from my anxiety medication was teeth grinding, which led to chipped teeth and thousands of dollars in dental bills. A friend of mine told me about pranayama (breath control, or breath exercises) and I thought "an exercise that doesn't require me to move. why not".

 

Pranayama is a Sanscrit word meaning "breath control". Prana meaning "Life Force" or "Energy" and yama meaning "to control" or "restrain". I started with a technique called

, or equal part breathing. Where you count as you inhale, pausing at the top of the inhale, and count as you exhale. Matching the inhale count with the exhale count. At first I was easily distracted and often frustrated, but over time I counted higher without becoming detracted. The results of equal part breathing had a very calming affect on me. Counting my breaths gave me something to focus on other than the over-whelming chitter-chatter of my thoughts, or what Buddha called the "Monkey Mind".

 

I was able to listen to my feelings, thoughts, and emotions as they presented themselves to me and instead of getting carried away by them I worked through them with my breath. Eckhart Tolle calls this "the silent observer". I started to see I was more than my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions. That I could actually observe them. There were years of trauma I had held on to like a shield, and it wasn't protecting me, it was stifling me. Using breathing techniques, like the equal parts breath, allowed me to work through emotions, thoughts, and feelings with a sense of control. It empowered me to face uncomfortable feelings and emotions; my fears, shame, and guilt. Through conscious attention and control of my own inhales and exhales (and lots of loving kindness) I was able to cultivated a safe space to direct my anxious energy. I felt better after I practiced Pranayama and I started becoming more active. Practicing Pranayama gave me the initiative to take better care of myself. I sought more help. Seeking therapists who directed me to more mindfulness. I also found counselors, healers, teachers, massage therapists, and friends who encouraged healing.

 

Learning more about how the breath work influences our thinking and physiology I learned that the respiratory rhythm, directly and indirectly, affects the central nervous system. Shallow breathing activates our sympathetic nervous system,or our fight-or-flight response, producing stress hormones that are intended to help us outrun a charging saber tooth tiger, but we no longer have saber toothed tigers to worry about. Instead we have bills, deadlines, and expectations. Our new saber toothed tigers. And these new-age saber toothed tigers charge at many of us daily, hourly, and/or moment-to-moment. Constantly engaging your Fight and Flight response can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, ulcers, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Pranayama techniques like Sama vritti, or Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) counter the fight-or-flight and activate our parasympathetic nervous system, or our rest response, producing hormones that help us relax and recover from a long day of outrunning all those saber toothed tigers.

 

I offer Pranayama as a free class at my studio every Sunday @12:30pm. I offer it as a free class because it was given to me by a friend for free and because i believe it is a tool that anyone can find useful. I believe it saved my life.

 

Many of us struggle through bouts of depression or mild anxiety, others live with these conditions daily, hourly, moment-to-moment. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety or depression. I am by no means saying Pranayma can cure conditions like anxiety or depression. I am saying that mindful breath work like Pranayama can be a way to work with these conditions and work through them. It is a tool you can use to help manage your anxiety and depression.

 

There is help out there. Don't be ashamed to seek help. You deserve to be happy and healthy and it shouldn't have to cost you your life savings or your health to do so. You don't have to constantly worry about saber tooths. For me therapy was a great deal of help but Pranayama was my baseboard to recovery, and a way for me to live with my saber tooth tigers.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Sincerely,

 

Marybeth

 

Special thanks to Lori LaBundy for helping me edit.

 

For more Information to read on the topics discussed in my blog click one of the links bellow.

 

Anxiety statistics : https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics.

Sama Vritti technique: https://www.verywellfit.com/sama-vritti-equal-breathing-3566764. The calming power of our breath according to Patanjali's yoga sutras: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/07/the-calming-power-of-our-breath-accordingto-patanjalis-yoga-sutras/.

How breathing influences the nervous system: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6070065/.

How stress affects the body: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987

Updated: Jul 22

Self-care doesn't have to cost you anything more than a few minutes.

Self-care can be a short catnap before you go out for the evening. Self-care is a warm bath. A cup of tea, on the porch, with your favorite book before you start dinner. massaging your own feet after a long day. A few mindful breaths before you walk into work. A yoga pose like Legs up the wall before bed. Self-care is going to bed instead of staying up all night binging on your favorite Netflix series. Stretching in the morning.

Self-care is saying "no" to a commitment you don't have the energy for.

How do you self care?

 

In my Gentle-Restorative classes I offer gentle stretches that lead into passive stretches to allow the body, muscles, and mind to relax. I share stories and poems that encourage students to reflect on their lives in thoughtful and empowering ways. Creating a space that allows students to listen to their own needs. I encourage students to think of things that revitalize and rejuvenate themselves off of their mats.

At the end of class I will often remind everyone to drink enough water, to be kind to themselves, and think of ways they can self-care.

 

As the saying goes "you cannot serve from an empty vessel". Self-care isn't selfish, it is necessary.

 

You are far more productive when you are well rested and relaxed. You think clearer and can focus better. When your needs are met you are much more willing to help others without feeling like you are being taken advantage of.

 

Self-care reminds you that you are worth your own time. That you are worth being cared for and that you love yourself enough to take the time to care for your needs.

 

You do so much for so many people. You put out a lot of energy into caring for others and you may love every minute of it and that's great! Just don't forget about giving back to you.

 

Now is the time to replenish that power. To nourish your body and mind.

 

We can only give so much before we are physically/emotionally drained. Be sure to recharge your internal battery with a few minutes of self-care each day.

 

You're worth it.

 

Sincerely,

Marybeth

 

 

find more Daily Mantras like this one by fallowing Coldwater Yoga on Facebook and Instragram.find more Daily Mantras like this one by fallowing Coldwater Yoga on Facebook and Instragram.
Art by Marybeth Blond

 

 

 

Life hands us some difficult situations and we can choose to let them break us or make us.

Perusing through YouTube this morning I ran a crossed a video that shared the story of a woman named Charmine and her story inspired this morning's mantra.

Charmine's husband left her with a one year old son. She couldn't afford to continue living in her home and had to live in a shelter house. She learned that she was pregnant while in the shelter.

She shared a story that one day she learned of a new apartment complex being built near her and how she looked at the apartments and thought to herself "it would be so nice to live here". That day she received a call from her social worker telling her there was an opening at that very complex.

She said "I could have let my situation break me but instead i let it make me". She never lost hope and continued to move forward.

Focus on what you want and keep moving forward. You're allowed to feel sad and down when things get tough, but don't stay there. Cry, scream, throw a fit, and when you're done re-group. Take a deep breath. Progress isn't a linear path. There is a lot of bumps and hiccups, u-turns, and 360s. Progress looks different for each person. Keep moving forward and don't lose hope.

You got this!

 

I chose to make my figure into a man because i don't often draw men and feel my daily mantra book needed a little masculinity in it.

 

I hope you enjoy.

 

Namste Yogis,

 

MB