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.

Breaking the Habit of Hesitation

Release the Idea of Needing Motivation, and Start Taking Action Today!

Many aspiring entrepreneurs constantly live in a state of limbo. They have great ideas, but they’re not quite sure if they should pursue them or not because it could be too risky. The thought of taking the leap into something new is paralyzing to some people– and for good reason! It can be an intimidating task, which is why I’m here to tell you that there’s no need to hesitate anymore. 

You don’t have to keep waiting around for someone else to invest in your idea; just take action and start making things happen. If you’re uncomfortable then you are on the right track. If this sounds like you then this blog post is perfect because it’s time we break the habit of hesitation once and for all.

It’s easy to look at someone you admire who has success and start to believe that they possess something you don’t. That success came easy to them or that they are full of motivation. You’ve bought into this idea that at some point you too will have the courage and confidence to pursue your dreams. 

You know how it goes… 

  • Once I have more money I will do it.
  • Once I lose weight I will start.
  • Once the kids are out of the house I can focus on myself.
  • Once I get that promotion things will change.

These hesitations are keeping you stuck. I know because I’ve been there too, and I know that someday will never come unless you decide to make it happen. 

Right now.

Where you are.

With what you have.

Begin Today!

I have a lifelong friend who is such an inspiration. She’s a single mom who started her custom clothing line while living in a 500 square-foot studio apartment. She’d always wanted to go for it, but the time was never right. Stuck at home with an infant and in a place of needing to figure it out, she went all in. 

Today she has a successful clothing line making custom clothes exclusively for the wives, girlfriends, parents, and children of professional athletes. A niche industry that caters to helping family members stand out in the stadium on game day. 

She created a market out of need and found success when she let hesitation go. 

She was not confident when she was setting up her printer between the baby’s crib and the small kitchen surface she had. But she decided to go for it and it completely changed her life. 

Hesitation Brings Doubt

Somewhere along the line, we decided it was more comfortable to stay stuck dreaming about our future lives than actually taking the steps to create that dream life. We started relying on the voice of hesitation. Our brains are designed to protect us from danger and anything unknown is a potential threat. Hesitation is our reasoning mind thinking it’s keeping us safe. But in order to start that business, be that partner, follow that dream, you are going to have to spend a little time in uncertainty.

Mel Robbin’s book, “The 5 Second Rule”, talks about this. She says it’s responsible for changing the course of her life. She says “If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it.” She suggests when you have an idea you give yourself 5 seconds to act on it. Literally doing a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown to propel you into action. 

When you think about all the things you’re going to do tomorrow it’s easy. Your mind is motivated to say…

  • I’m going to get up early and meditate tomorrow
  • I’m going to start eating healthily tomorrow
  • I’m starting my gym routine tomorrow
  • I’m starting to put pen to paper on my book tomorrow

And you really mean it! You’re seriously ready. But then the next day you just aren’t motivated to do it. You’ve already hesitated on the idea, what’s one more day? You can always start tomorrow. And it’s true, you can always start tomorrow, but if you’re waiting for motivation or courage, or confidence to get started then you will never begin.

As amazing as your ideas are, nothing happens if you don’t get yourself up and moving. 

You’re never going to feel like doing the scary stuff–the stuff that requires learning new skills that intimidate you like taking control of your finances or learning the dynamics of solid SEO skills. You will always only feel motivated to do the things that are easy and that feel good. But I’m sorry to tell you that is not the way to success. 

Successful people show up and do the work even when they aren’t motivated or sure what will happen. They understand that it’s more important to be consistent than to be motivated or confident. They just keep on keepin on.

Breathwork for Hesitation

When you feel a strong urge to move on something and hesitate, your brain starts to rationalize all the reasons why you are right for hesitating. You can train yourself to act by utilizing Mel Robbins 5 Second rule, or you can turn to your breath. 

Whenever I have a big decision to make I sit down on my mat and breathe. I ask for clarity and do alternate nostril breathing, balancing out the two hemispheres of my brain so I can get in tune with my inner knowing. Using that knowledge–that gut feeling that my heart is leading me to do–I can easily begin down a road without hesitation. Now having a foundation of trust within my heart. 

Intuitively I always know which way I want to go, but when I hesitate doubt will have me sitting in limbo for far too long. Alternate nostril breathing has helped push that mind-chatter out, leaving me clear and concise on the direction I need to go. 

Alternate Nostril Breathing

  • Find a comfortable seat on a meditation pillow.
  • Be sure you are sitting with a nice straight spine, shoulders rolled back and down, with your chin slightly tucked. 
  • Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath.
  • Ask yourself: Why am I hesitating on this decision?
  • Place your right hand in a pranayama mudra (fancy hand placement) by tucking your first two fingers into the palm of your hand, allowing the ring and pinky to remain as straight as possible. 
  • Bring your right thumb up to plug your right nostril and inhale for 4 seconds starting through the left nostril only. 
  • Use your ring and pinky figures to pinch the left nostril as you hold your breath.
  • Release your thumb from the right side and exhale for 4 seconds. 
  • Stay here and inhale into your right nostril for 4 seconds.
  • Pinch your thumb to your right nostril while holding your breath.
  • Release your ring and pinky fingers and exhale 4 seconds out of your left nostril.
  • You have completed 1 full round. 
  • Repeat these steps for 5-10 more rounds to find balance and clarity.

However you decide to work on your habit of hesitation is fine. We all have different ways of moving into clarity. The reality is that there is more information in this world and choices to be made than you have time for. So decide what is the right path for you and then get out of your way so you can do the work. 

Doubt will always be there, but it doesn’t need to be behind the wheel. Take control of your life by moving into a place of action and see how quickly things begin to change. 

I’d love to hear from you! Let me know how alternate nostril breathing is working for your decision-making or what other tips and tricks you use to help beat the hesitation within you. 

When Life Moves You Out of Alignment, Take a Step Back & Breathe

The Benefits of Breathing into Alignment

In order to live an authentic life, we must be in alignment. Meaning our outward actions must be in agreement with our inward intentions. Conscious breathing is a great way to line up the inner and the outer world. 

We spend so much of our existence seeking answers and things outside of us. This throws our system out of alignment. It starts subtly and ends up reflecting back to us images and lifestyles that we don’t even relate to. Following your breath is a significant way to guide yourself back into alignment. 

Breathwork offers effective techniques so you can…

  • Manage intense emotions 
  • Show up authentically in your life
  • Make inspired decisions
  • Feel calm
  • Improve your sleep quality
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Increase mental and emotional resilience
  • Balance energy levels

We all go through times in our life when things aren’t going well. Where every move we make seems off. You are probably aware that your alignment is off, but can’t quite figure out how to nudge it back to the right place. Simple and effective breathing is a great tool to use anytime you’re feeling off. 

Balancing the nervous system is one of the many benefits of breathwork. Helping you to identify the areas in your life that are out of alignment in your evolutionary experience. 

Below are 3 breathing exercises to help you breathe your way back into alignment. 

Balanced Breathing

Balanced Breathing is performed by breathing in and out in equal parts. 

  1. Begin by sitting in a comfortable cross-legged position on the floor. Or, if you prefer, lying down. Be sure legs are not crossed, but you may like them elevated. 
  2. Close your eyes and bring your attention to the tip of your nose. Notice the natural rhythm of your breath.
  3. After a few rounds of natural breathing, begin to slowly count to 4 or 5 as you inhale.
  4. Take a moment at the top of the inhale before slowly counting out to 4 or 5 as you exhale.
  5. Take a moment at the bottom of the exhale before returning to the inhale
  6. Continue in this pattern, breathing in and out slowly to the same count with a pause at both the top and bottom of each breath.

By breathing in and out in equal time you are balancing out the nervous system. This helps bring you up if you’re feeling low and helps guide you down if you are too anxious. 

Balance is the key to many breathing practices. 

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Another great example of equal part breathing that helps nudge us back into alignment is Alternate Nostril Breathing. In this pattern, you will breathe in and out through alternating nostrils.

Before getting into the technique, let’s chat about hand placement. 

  • Look at your right hand and fold the first two fingers (the pointer and middle) into the palm.
  • Use your pinky to help guide the ring figure up to your best degree.
  • Your hand will look similar to the hang loose hand gesture. 
  • Keeping your hand in this mudra you will perform the technique.

This is best done sitting in a comfortable seated position. Either on the floor or in a chair with your feet firmly placed on the floor and your back free from support.

  1. Place your left hand on your left knee.
  2. Exhale completely and bring your right hand up to your nose, closing the right nostril with your thumb.
  3. Inhale through your left nostril and pinch both nostrils closed at the top of the inhale.
  4. Open your right nostril by removing your thumb and exhale out the right nostril only.
  5. Stay here and inhale in the right nostril while your ring and pinky finger press closed the left.
  6. Pinch both nostrils at the top of the inhale.
  7. Release your ring and pinky finger and exhale out the left. 
  8. That is one round. 
  9. Continue in this cycle for 10 rounds or 5 minutes. Always ending the practice by exhaling out the left nostril.

Focus on keeping your breath slow, smooth, and continuous; nothing labored.

Abdominal Hollowing

Abdominal hollowing is the more active of the three described here. I recommend doing this one laying down so you don’t overwork your back muscles while actively pushing out the breath.

  1. Lie on your back with the souls of your feet planted about hip-width distance apart.
  2. Begin breathing in a slow and controlled manner.
  3. After a few rounds, activate the breath by deeply breathing in for a five-count.
  4. Exhale all the air out of your lungs as you push your belly button all the way back towards your spine. There is no count on the exhale, but it should be at least 2 to 3 counts longer than the inhale.
  5. With your abdominal area completely hollowed out, hold empty for 5 counts.
  6. Repeat this cycle of a triangle (breathing, inhale, exhale, hold) for 10 rounds or roughly 3 minutes.
  7. After the last active round, go back to your natural breathing pattern before moving on.

Abdominal hollowing works into your underworked deep abdominal muscles. Making it beneficial for those suffering from lower back pain. As an option, you can drape something over your belly to add extra pressure to the exhale. This is helpful because it assists in flushing out all the stagnant air trapped at the bottom of your lungs. A pillow, yoga block, or light sandbag all work great. 

Taking the time to breathe consciously as a daily practice has the power to move your life from a place of chaos to one aligned to your inner calling. 

We All Face Challenges

Working with all kinds of people in helping them reconnect to their breath, I have come to understand that these simple breathing patterns can have a profound impact on one’s life. Like meditation, it gives you an opportunity to let go of the mind-chatter and reflect within. 

I cannot tell you the number of times students come up to me and thank me for helping them to sleep better or breathe through a difficult emotion. Although it is a true honor to share these practices, I did nothing to help them that they couldn’t do on their own. 

Sometimes getting in alignment means having someone like me to guide you through the work. Giving you an opportunity to sink deep into a practice while a guide does all the counting, observing, and keeps you on track. This is part of re-connecting to your alignment. 

If you are interested in going deeper with your breath practice I am here to assist. Contact me at mary@heart-lightstudios.com to find out more.