Healthy Holidays – Breathe

christmas lights
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As Christmas draws near, I find it entirely too easy to make not-important-things of the utmost importance. Every year, it’s the same silly story. I get busy; I over commit; I hurry too much and connect too little. By the time Christmas day rolls around, I feel spent and let down. And it’s all by my own choosing.

This year, I’m doing things differently. I’ve decided to have a peaceful season, which means putting the things that are really important first. Like my family, my spiritual connection to the season and my own well-being, because those get shuffled to the bottom of the list way too easily. Belongings, activities, and the pressure to just keep doing more crowd out all the delicious wonderful magic of these few weeks.  I’m putting my foot down and will not allow that to happen for one more day this season.

So, here we begin. 10 days until Christmas. 10 ways to make this a connected, healthful season. 10 opportunities to enrich my experience by taking good care of this life I’ve been given.  And this life is really great.

So, here we go.

Breathe

Remember those old Lamaze birthing techniques? My mom certainly used them during labor with my older brother and me. They’re funny to re-enact, but breathing doesn’t get nearly enough credit for keeping our bodies in good shape.

You guys, I FORGET TO BREATHE. I mean, not completely. My reptilian brain won’t let that happen. But the experience of breathing. Pulling air into my body, not just my lungs. Feeling it from my brain all the way through my chest and abdomen then down to my toes. The delightful electricity of oxygen in m blood. I go all day without really connecting to my breath and at the end of it, I’m all wound up and exhausted and worn out. I’ve deprived my brain and body of optimal oxygenation and it shows.

I catch myself literally holding my breath. Survival instinct is driving my brain and body and therefore my decisions. Have you ever tried to make a reasonable, rational decision when you’re being chased by a ravenous mountain lion? Yeah, me either. But this is exactly what happens when we are stuck in our reptilian, disconnected, survival space.  We don’t consciously choose anything when the survival mechanism is engaged…we go with the flow, react, keep our hearts beating and lungs breathing.

We are wired to survive. Great. But survival isn’t enough.

The moment I breathe, and I mean really focus on the act of breathing, my entire outlook changes. The way I move, the way I communicate, the way I make important decisions…it all changes. Within seconds, I reconnect to my spirit, my lovespace, my ability to be present in this moment.  It’s like the autopilot that has been making all of my vital choices gets switched off and I switch on.

One of my favorite breath techniques that I share with most of my clients is the Observational Breath. It’s so simple, and I do it multiple times a day. Here is the technique:

Step One: Close your eyes and breathe.
Step Two: Become an observer of your breath coming in and leaving your body.
Step Three: Allow your body to regulate the air coming in and going out.
Step Four: Continue until you feel calm and connected and then stop.

The simplicity of observational breathing astounds me. Go ahead and try it. I promise to be here when you open your eyes.

The second breath is the Breath Of Joy. I’ve included a YouTube link, because this one is a bit more involved. My dearest friend brought this to me one day. It is invigorating and helps me get moving when I’m feeling the gentle tendrils of mild depression reaching out for me in the morning, or the post-lunch sluggishness knocking on my ass. (Note: If you have high blood pressure, this is not recommended.)

So, before we reach for smartphones or sugary treats or third cup of coffee…breathe first. Feel it in your belly, take it to your toes. Be in the moment and breathe through your instinct to leave it. Then decide what to do, decide what to say, and decide what next step you want to take.  You presence matters.

For more tips on handling stress during the holidays (or any days!) visit our friends over at The Leaky Boob.

Yoga Hands
Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net