Spring Clean Your Breath With These 3 Breathing Practices

Detox Your Lungs to Feel Refreshed

Spring is in the air! A time to emerge from the stillness of winter, pull back the blinds, and watch as new life takes form. As the sun shines its light on us we feel refreshed. There’s a sense of connection that is undeniable between us and nature. And just as we find ourselves de-cluttering our home so too must we cleanse our internal space. Detoxing ourselves of unwanted emotions that became stagnant over the long cold winter. 

Winter is a time to slow down, be still, and reflect on days past. It is also a time of imbalance due to the lack of sunlight, outdoor activity, and an excessive amount of sitting. This can cause…

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Loneliness

Add the effects piling up from the pandemic and it’s easy to see why so many are burdened with the stress caused by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Your breath is a built-in source of connectivity; Helping you to feel revived as the dark clouds part for more sunny days ahead. 

Below are 3 simple breathing techniques to help you connect to a deep full breath. Making room inside for you to clear space to breathe into a new season of life. 

  1. Breath of Fire

This is a popular breathing technique that shows up in many yoga classes. Doing this for 7 minutes will completely cleanse your bloodstream. I always suggest doing this deep cleansing breathwork in the morning. It helps get you up and moving because it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. The quick sharp exhales help move energy and detox any stagnant air that has built up in the lungs. 

To do this technique…

  • Find your seat, either cross-legged or hips to heels.
  • Back is tall and eyes are closed or fixed on one point.
  • Place hands on your thighs, lap, or against your ribcage to feel the sharp movement.
  • Inhale through the nose, allowing the air to move deep into your belly.
  • Without pausing, exhale forcefully through your nose as your abdominal muscles contract in.
  • Keep doing this action at about one exhale per second. 
  • The inhales will happen naturally, just focus on the exhales.
  • Continue at this rapid pace for about 30 seconds to start. 
  • Practice daily in the morning and increase the time as you grow. 

The challenge with Breath of Fire is to start in small increments. There is a tendency to move your shoulders with your breath and go too fast. You want to maintain control over your breath so start with 30 seconds of focused exhales. Shoulders remain still and keep a pace of one exhale per second. I like to set a metronome on my phone to help me keep the pace. 

Because this is stimulating breathwork, it is not uncommon to get dizzy, light-headed, or feel nauseous. You are moving energy that has been hanging out in the bottom of your lungs for a long time so this is to be expected. Also because of the intense pumping of your stomach muscles, I would avoid this one if you are pregnant or on your moon cycle. 

Breath of Fire is sure to set your day in a more positive direction and is a fast, effective way to stimulate and regulate your nervous system. 

  1. Alternate Nostril Breathing

This is a fantastic way to balance the right and left hemispheres of your brain. It can be done at any time that feels most natural to you. Because of its balancing nature, it can be used to help bring your energy up if you’re feeling low, or calm you down if you are feeling anxious. Not only does this breathwork balance you out but it helps you find focus, too. 

If you are new to Alternate Nostril Breathing I recommend keeping a tissue handy. This work can get a little snotty and might feel impossible at first. If you are sick or congested you might want to hold off until you can better access your breath equally through both nostrils. 

This is a fairly simple practice, but it does take time to get all the moving parts down correctly. I do recommend watching a video on how to perform this one correctly here

As you balance your brain, there is a lot to think about:

  • Keep your breath pattern slow and smooth. 
  • Focus on your breath and hand movement to remind you where you are in the cycle.
  • Your breath should feel controllable throughout the practice.

You will be forcefully directing air in one nostril and out the other using your right hand. There is a hand mudra performed here that we will not be getting into today. For our purposes, of just learning the technique, you will keep it simple. Using just your thumb and pointer fingers. 

To practice alternate nostril breathing:

  • Sit in a comfortable position.
  • Place your left hand on your left knee or in your lap.
  • Exhale completely.
  • Use the right thumb to close the right nostril.
  • Inhale through the left nostril.
  • Pinch the left nostril with your pointer finger.
  • Open the right nostril and exhale through this side.
  • Stay here.
  • Inhale through the right nostril.
  • Pinch closed this nostril.
  • Open the left nostril and exhale through the left side.
  • This is one cycle.
  • Continue for 5 to 10 rounds.
  • Always complete the practice by finishing with an exhale on the left side.

If you are left-hand dominant feel free to reverse the whole pattern. Traditionally you wouldn’t do this, but I say if it helps you breathe, then go for it. 

Once you have the pattern down add a count to help your breaths be slow and steady. 

  • Inhale for a 4 count.
  • Hold for a 2 count while you pinch and switch from your thumb to your pointer.
  • Exhale for a 4 count.
  • Short pause.
  • Inhale for a 4 count.
  • Hold for a 2 count while you pinch and switch from your pointer to your thumb.
  • Exhale out for a 4 count.

Alternate Nostril Breathing is one of the best ways to balance out your nervous system and anchor you into the moment. Leaving you feeling relaxed and cleansed.

  1. Stop and Smell the Flowers

Here’s a fun one you can do with the kids. Exploring your breath is fun and inviting. In many ways, it is a game to be played that brings you closer to a deeper understanding of self. Encouraging kids to get involved and become aware of how their bodies work is something that they can use their entire life. 

Stop and smell the flowers guides you through a simple visualization that encourages deep full breaths.

  • Find a comfortable seat where you feel relaxed with a straight spine.
  • Soften or close your eyes.
  • Begin to visualize yourself running through a field of the most beautiful wildflowers.
  • Take a moment to discover all the colors, sizes, and shapes. Notice how each one is unique.
  • Let your eyes come to rest on the most beautiful flower you’ve ever seen. Visualize every detail about it as you move in closer to observe.
  • See yourself sitting eye to eye with it. Taking in the color, size, and shape.
  • Bring your nose right to the heart of the flower and take a nice smooth deep inhale.
  • Hold it in at the top of your breath and feel the essence of spring. 
  • Open your mouth and exhale it all out with a nice refreshing sigh.
  • Smile.
  • Stay with the same flower letting your imagination explore the field as you continue to breathe in the aroma and exhale with a sigh. 
  • About 5 or 6 rounds will have you feeling calm, clear, and rejuvenated.

Naturally cleanse from the inside out with Conscious Connected Breathwork

Focusing on your breath for as little as five minutes a day helps release tension carried in the mind and the body. Mentally, emotionally, and physically you can begin to detox naturally with every exhale. At the end of five focused minutes, you will feel more relaxed. Your blood will be cleansed, your mind clear, and your nervous system balanced. 

I help clients breathe through all kinds of issues:

  • Help restore balance to the stress response systems.
  • Bring calm to an agitated mind.
  • Relieve symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Improve physical health and endurance.
  • Elevate performance.
  • Aid in sleep deprivation.

If you are interested in learning more, I am here to guide you. 

Whether you are local to the Seattle area or looking for assistance remotely, I can help. Allow me to guide you in this experience of transformative healing.

Learn more about my in-person and virtual offerings HERE.

4 Ways You Can Harness Your Negative Mind-Chatter

Simple ways to shift your internal dialogue in a more productive way

We humans are unique in the way we think. Our thoughts can broaden us or hinder us in our growth. We are the only species who have the ability to narrate our lives. This can be both mind-altering and destructive. The stories we tell ourselves in these narratives play a huge part in how we show up in the world. We speak an estimated 50,000 words in our head every single day! Like all forms of growth and change, it starts with awareness. Once you become aware of the words you are saying continuously to yourself, you can begin the process of altering the stories you’ve created in your head. 

Living in the present moment is a learned skill and one that can be challenging for those of us who have spent a lifetime romanticizing the past. Perhaps out of uncertainty about the future or to grasp onto pain and trauma from our past. Either way, whatever voice is dominant controls the decisions you make today. 

If you are ready to take control of the outcome of your story and change the trajectory you’re on, these 4 steps can guide you towards a future worthy of you. 

It’s time to let go of the stories that are holding you back and harness the mind-chatter that keeps you stuck in a life you don’t even love. 

  1. Distance yourself from your inner dialogue

Your inner dialog is always present. It affects every decision you make. That’s why it’s so hard to set emotions aside when making a difficult decision. Distancing yourself from your inner dialogue takes work and patience, but it will enable you to make more productive choices. 

One effective way to separate yourself from a pattern on repeat is to talk about yourself in the third person. For example: Instead of saying Why did I do that? A statement that confirms that you are a certain way, Ask yourself, Why did you just do that? This separates you from the event. Allowing your brain to analyze things from a clearer perspective. 

This works in the same way as switching your thoughts from…

  • I am depressed to I feel depressed
  • I am starving to I feel starving
  • I am vulnerable to I feel vulnerable
  • I hate him to I feel hate towards him

Can you feel the difference in your body when you make this change? One is making the emotion a part of who you are and the other creates a distance because it is not who you are but rather how you are currently feeling. 

Our brains understand that we can move beyond something we feel more than it understands moving beyond something we are. 

Why this is helpful?

Using this technique helps us to cope with past trauma. It helps us understand we are not our emotions. Creating this border helps us realize that the things that make us anxious, depressed, vulnerable, etc. are emotion-based and can change. When our minds are open we can self-reflect in a more immersive way. This leads us towards growth and understanding instead of just an “I” statement based on a story about a past event that we have romanticized and recreated many times over. 

The next time you are faced with a big decision make sure you are not acting out of emotion or a story based on past events. Distance yourself. Ask the introspective questions that allow you to separate from your constant mind-chatter about who and what you are. See if this technique helps guide you from emotion-based movement to a more rational growth-based movement.

Read more about inner dialog and its effects here.

  1. Turn your thoughts toward awe

Have you ever watched a parent jump through hoops to create an experience of wonder and magic for their kids? It is often paired with a lot of drama, money, and time to get things just right to create these moments. But then you see the parents look of wonder and awe as they watch their kids experience the magic. It is beautiful and sad all in one ball. 

We try to recreate moments that we had or others had to keep wonder alive. Forgetting that awe is happening all around us all the time.

Our minds compartmentalize awe. Somewhere along the line, we decided it was to be reserved for special moments like…

  • The birth of a child
  • Our wedding day
  • The first morning on vacation in a tropical land

Because of this, we tend to put a lot of pressure on these events to be perfect and awe-inspiring. These big events are going to produce moments of awe in the nature of what they are, but they can also be seen and felt right now. 

Look around where you are right now. What do you see? What are you over-looking in your life right now because of the distraction of your mind-chatter?

  • Your cat curled in a ball in the last of the morning sunbeam taking in the rays
  • Your jade plant reaching for the light in nature’s perfect way
  • The pile of clothes thrown over the coach reminding you of the precious people you live with
  • Multiple layers of unread books stacked next to the coach waiting to be read
  • The handmade curtains you made over ten years ago that add color and light to the room

All you see is worthy of gratitude and awe if you take the time to see it. The messiness of life is awe in motion. Not just something reserved for special moments because all life is special. Every moment is special. Your unique life is awe-inspiring and special. 

Train your mind to slow down and notice all that is happening around you. This stops your mind from spinning tales of doom and fear and allows you to open up to the unlimited possibilities of the ever-present now. 

  1. Start a breathing practice

We’ve all heard how fantastic meditation is to get you out of your head and clear your mind, but it also sounds super scary and impractical. A breath practice on the other hand has the same impact as meditating without the intimidating feelings surrounding it. 

When you control your breathing pattern you take back your ability to improve your concentration and focus your mind. Our breath and our mind are duly linked. When one is calm, so is the other. So you can affect your mind by slowing your breath. 

Inhales are associated with the fight or flight  response that sends signals from your nervous system to your brain that things are out of control. Anxious thoughts result in a series of shallow rapid inhales. Exhales, on the other hand, are associated with your rest and digest side of your nervous systems response to the brain. Long, slow deep exhales help calm your mind, heart, and body down. 

By starting a breathing practice you are consciously taking time to focus on what is going on in your body instead of continuing to get lost in the cycles of thoughts in your head. 

As little as 5 minutes of conscious breathing per day can have a dramatic impact in clearing out your mind-chatter and creating space for new thoughts to enter and expand. 

  • Sit up straight right now and soften your gaze. 
  • Take a deep inhale low into your belly. Let your belly expand as the air travels in your nose, down the back of your throat, and deep into your belly. 
  • Hold the air in for 2 seconds before exhaling out slowly as you count to five.

Now do it again. 

  • Inhale, through the nose, for a four count
  • Hold for a 2 count
  • Exhale for a five count
  • Repeat four or five more times

Let your focus be internal. Notice what is happening in your subtle body as the air moves in and out. Notice what parts of your body naturally move, open and expand. Focus solely on the breath.

Boom! You just calmed your nervous system. And you can practice this almost anywhere and at any time. In five short minutes a day you can…

  • Increase awareness of your body
  • Boost your immune system
  • Decrease stress levels in the body
  • Focus your mind
  • Reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and attention deficit order

Slow, deep, mindful breathing sends a message to your brain that you are calm, cool, and collected. From a calm place you can better harness your mind-chatter and begin to direct your thoughts from a clear perspective.

Read more about the healthy benefits of breathing here.

  1. Stop venting! It doesn’t help

One of the ways we process our thoughts is by talking about them. This is helpful for many reasons. 

  1. It allows us an opportunity to hear our thoughts and decipher weather or not they make sense
  2. It gives those we trust an opportunity to help us process our thoughts
  3. It helps us to understand that our problems aren’t so unique and that there is a way to work through them.

All of this is true if, in fact, we are actually looking for solutions to grow from. Most people are not talking about their problems to find solutions. Most people are venting. And the more we vent about the negative events in our lives the longer the negative event will play out in our minds. We look for support by complaining to others. This bleeds bad energy into your environment and encourages others to suffer alongside you. We’ve all heard the saying, “misery loves company”. 

Unless you are prepared to have a constructive dialogue that moves you towards a solution, venting actually keeps problems stuck in our head.

Day after day you will find that most of your thoughts are on repeat from the same thoughts you experienced yesterday and the day before that. When a negative experience gets stuck in your thought pattern and you spend time and energy sharing those negative thoughts it becomes a programmed cycle that will repeat into your day. That is unless you are seeking resolve. 

The solution here sounds easy enough, yet it can be incredibly challenging. When you speak with your trusted circle of friends and family, approach it from a resolution perspective. For example: if you are having a conflict with someone at work and are feeling angry with them, try to not vent to everyone else in the workplace and start a tug-of-war amongst staff. Instead speak to one person you trust and ask them to hear you out so that you can find solutions together. 

If you want to improve your emotional state then seek solutions in your conversations. This includes owning up to any oversights that come clear as your work through the problem. 

Change the Mind-Chatter

At the end of the day you have very little control over so much of what happens in your life. You do, however, always have control over your thoughts. It begins by being aware of the chatter in your mind and actively taking steps to improve it. 

The fact is that you spend every moment of every day in your head, so you might as well enjoy the thoughts that create this experience. You cannot change the past or predict the future, but you can work on making the most of the current moment and using these healthy tools to guide your mind-chatter into a more productive place. 

When Standing Up For What’s Right Leaves You Feeling Like The Bad Guy

The Hard Reality of Doing the Right Thing

We all know that the right and moral thing to do when becoming aware of the injustices of the world is to speak up. Do the right thing. Don’t sit by and watch it happen. This is something we universally feel is right. But what we don’t talk about is how vulnerable and often alone one feels when speaking up. We forget that the witness is often tossed into a situation that they would rather not be associated with. And how speaking out for what’s right is often at the price of stepping away from something you love. 

It’s probably fair to say that we have all witnessed something along our journey that didn’t sit well within our souls, yet we remained silent. 

  • Silent because we feared being called out ourselves. 
  • Silent because we were trying to fit in. 
  • Silent because our jobs depended on it.
  • Silent because we felt powerless to do anything.

These experiences help us find our courage when another opportunity is shown. Yes, it will still feel scary. You may be shaking as you speak or lose your train of thought. After all, you didn’t anticipate being faced with a moral dilemma today. But you do know what right and wrong feel like, so you can sleep better knowing you had the courage to speak up. 

It seems that in today’s world there are a lot of opportunities to get involved and rally for change, equality, and freedom. The trouble is it is equally as easy to sit behind a computer and judge everyone else without any repercussions. It takes courage to stand up and say something, knowing it would be easier not to. But at what cost are we keeping our mouths shut?

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Albert Einstein

Over this past week, a colleague of mine did something that ruffled my feathers! A direct violation of conduct was breached. I was immediately upset and clearly was able to communicate the harmful indecency of the matter. At the time I thought that it went without saying that what this person did was wrong. Being a witness to something that breaks a barrier of human decency and left a fellow colleague embarrassed, belittled, and defeated.

I soon began to realize that others were looking at me as the problem. The organization involved was anxious to sweep this bad behavior under the rug, not wanting to bring too much attention to it, with an attitude of “we all lose our tempers now and again.” They were willing to allow this bad behavior because of this individual’s role within our community. They didn’t want HR involved because of the paper trail it would create and how it could harm this person’s relationship with the organization. 

I was shocked! I knew I couldn’t let this go, and I couldn’t understand how they could let this pass without any kind of repercussion. 

It felt scary to stand up to those telling me to calm down. I began to question myself, and wonder if I really was the problem. 

Thankfully I have my breath practice to help center me when under this kind of pressure. 

One of the things I talk to my clients about all the time is using their breath to stand in their truth. Our breath is so powerful, and because each breathing pattern is associated with a different emotion I was able to discern the strong unsettling emotions I was feeling through a pattern of short tight breaths. I knew this wasn’t normal or right for me, and the more this organization tried to silence me the tighter my breath became. 

I knew that keeping silent to please those around me was the easy path, but that it would start a war within me that I would have to live with for the rest of my life.

Using my breath to center me was my guide. It gave me strength to allow the situation to be uncomfortable. It kept me calm where I could have easily back-pedaled to keep the peace. It allowed me to speak my truth and keep pushing for something to be done or at the very least documented when I could sense the irritation from those in power who would benefit from my silence. 

Before I found my breath my reaction to this situation might have looked very different. I would easily fold at the first sideways glance that I might be causing trouble. I’m a peace-keeper after all, but now, through age and wisdom, I know that sometimes keeping the peace for others can cause years of turmoil within my soul. 

The situation hasn’t been resolved, but steps are being laid to assure prevention of this type of violation of trust and conduct. I believe this path will be long and uncomfortable, but my heart and breath are moving with more ease for sticking with it. 

That’s the thing with breathwork. You never know how valuable it is until you find yourself in a situation where balancing yourself is necessary to proceed. 

If you are interested in using the power of your breath to center and control your emotions in challenging situations, contact me to learn about my one-on-one sessions, or join Breath Mindset. An online course and community designed to help you recognize your own truth being centering into your breath. You can also read up about breathwork in a bunch of my past blogs, like this one, Breathwork is the New Meditation.