Yoga Therapy on the Main Line: Why Your Breath is Your Best Friend by Melanie Taylor, LMFT, RYT-500

Yoga Therapy on the Main Line: 

Why Your Breath is Your Best Friend

 By: Melanie Taylor, LMFT, RYT-500

Yoga therapy for anxiety and depression on the Philadelphia Main Line in Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Villanova and Lower Merion

 What if you could find a friend that would stay by your side always? Someone who’s sole purpose was to make sure you not only stayed alive but also thrived in your life. Someone who knew just what to do to provide you a pick-me-up when depressed or tired or could ease your body and mind when anxious or upset. What if you had access to this friend 24/7 and the only thing this friend needed from you was a willingness to accept their support? 

Well, my friends, I have some exciting news to share. This friend exists, and not only does the friend exist, it exists within you! Its your breath. You see, your breath is both a complicated and conveniently simple process that weaves together the communication between your body and mind. Linked to your nervous system, your breath has the capabilities of keeping you alive, soothing your body and mind and increasing energy. Your breath can let you know how you’re feeling and if you’re relaxed or tense. Think about it… when panic sets into the body and mind, the breath oftentimes responds rapidly, assuming the need to prepare for survival. Your breath may become shorter and choppier or maybe even appear nonexistent and stuck. This same breath, the one coming and going from your lungs, can be trained to deepen and soften during panic, activating your calming nervous system, thus subsiding the panic in both your body and mind.  Or, maybe your nervous system is feeling too subdued, you’re falling asleep at work or feeling unable to pull yourself out of bed to face the day. In these moments, accentuating the inhale can increase energy and focus, even lifting your mood in the moment. Your breath holds a wealth of resources for you. All you have to do is attend to it. Here’s some ways to access its usefulness.

1. A breathing practice to soothe the nervous system: Paced Breathing 

When to use:

To soothe anxiety, panic or restlessness, if you are having difficulty sleeping and/or relaxing, when you feel worked up or frazzled. 

How to use:

When attempting to soothe or relax the nervous system, accentuate the exhale. Paced breathing patterns the breath to increase the length of the exhale to twice as long as the inhale. You will count the breaths in your head. If able, breathe both in and out of your nose. If you need to breathe out of your mouth due to sinus issues, it can help to purse the lips so that the breath is able to stay long and controlled. Let your breath carry deep into your body… allow your stomach to expand on your inhales, and gently contract your stomach in on your exhales. Try the counts of 4 to inhale and 8 to exhale. If this feels difficult or creates more tension in the body, reduce the numbers, just making sure the exhale is 2x as long as the inhale. Our lungs often need time to practice expanding (in our society, we don’t usually use much of our breathing capacity from day-to-day), so be patient and just do what feels comfortable. Remember, this is intended to relax and soothe you. 

Here we go:

It can help to sit upright allowing spaciousness in your chest or lying down (especially if you are using this to help with sleep). Close your eyes if comfortable. If you prefer to have your eyes open, maybe gaze at a soft spot on the floor or in front of you. Now, inhale…2…3…4, Exhale…2…3…4…5…6…7…8, Inhale…2…3…4, Exhale…2…3…4…5…6…7…8, repeat this sequence multiple times. I recommend at least 10 rounds, but as many as you would like until you start to feel soothed, more at ease or fall asleep. 

Contraindications:

The only time to avoid this breath is if you are already relaxed or tired  and do not want to fall asleep of become more relaxed. If this is the case and you are looking for a pick-me-up, try the breath below.

2. A breathing practice to enliven your nervous system: Breath of Joy

When to use:

when tired, depressed, energy depleted, feeling stuck, lacking interest or focus.

How to use:

When attempting to lift your energy, focus or mood, accentuating the inhale wakes up the nervous system. Breath of Joy calls for 3 quick inhales and one large exhale. This breath can be done standing or sitting in a chair. Make sure you have arms-length of space around and above you. 

Here we go:

On your first quick inhale through your nose, swing your arms out in front of you. 

On the second inhale through your nose, swing your arms from in front of you, out to the sides in a “T” position. 

On the third inhale through your nose, swing your arms from the “T” position above your head in a touchdown position. 

Next, exhale forcefully out of your mouth with an audible “Ha” as you fold at the waist and swing your arms down by your legs

Repeat this at least 3 times, more if you like. 

Main Line Yoga Therapy, Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr, anxiety, depression

Contraindications- 

If you have any severe back issues, bulging discs, osteoporosis or hypertension, folding forward or hanging your head upside down is usually not safe. Good news, you can still do this breath! Just make sure to avoid folding over and instead swing your arms down by your side while exhaling a “Ha” forcefully.  

If you are interested in learning more about how to balance your mind and body through your breath and other yoga techniques, consider yoga therapy. To learn more about how to get connected with a yoga therapist, give us a call at 484-784-6244 for a free 15-minute consultation.   

Sure Fire Ways to Get Grounded and Reduce Anxiety

No Stress Peace West Chester, PA Therapy

Your body feels jittery and like you want to crawl out of your skin.  Your heart races, your mind goes a million miles a second and you can't sleep.  Sometimes, you just wish you could find a little peace - a little reprieve from this constant state of feeling charged up.  Anxiety, social anxiety and panic are such difficult things to have to deal with.  The good news is that there's hope and some sure fire things you can do to help calm your nervous system.

What grounds you?

West Chester Therapy Peace No Stress Meditation

Getting grounded, as in, feeling your feet on the earth rather than in your head - starts with your intention at the beginning of each day.  The things that help people feel grounded can be different for everyone, so you need to find things that work for you.  The first place to start is to think about what you can do each morning, upon awakening that will help you get centered and begin your day with a peaceful intent.  Some mindfulness meditation could be helpful, reading from a daily book of inspirational readings, praying, doing some deep breathing, singing, chanting, walking or exercising in a mindful way - these are a few ideas you can begin with.  

As far as inspirational reading goes, I personally like these two:

West Chester Therapy Meditations Inspriations

A Deep Breath of Life by Alan Cohen

The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie

Whatever you choose to do to help you get grounded in the morning, make it into a ritual.  

Our bodies find comfort in repeating the same actions on a regular basis.  You will be teaching your body that every morning, you find peace through grounding and it will set you up to stay grounded and calm through the rest of your day.

Here is an example of a morning ritual:

West Chester Therapy for Anxiety Stress Reducing Mindfulness
Mindfulness Meditation Candle
  • wake
  • go to comfortable spot in home designated to meditation
  • light a candle or incense
  • drink warm lemon water
  • read from daily inspirational book
  • say a few simple prayers for help with staying calm through the day
  • set timer for 5 minutes 
  • practice deep belly breathing for 5 minutes while focusing on flame of candle
  • After breathing, spend 5 minutes making a gratitude list
  • blow out candle and go for a 15-minute walk

Something as simple as this can really get your day off to a great start.  

Maintaining Balance

As you go about your day, when you notice your anxiety rising, come back to the breath you started with at the beginning of your day.  

Feel your feet

Grounding in West Chester, PA Therapy Peace Techniques

This is a tip I learned a while back that always seems to help.  As yourself "where are my feet right now?" and then look down at them and see them there on the earth.  Wiggle your toes a bit and feel them moving around in your sock.  Acknowledge that right now, in this moment, your feet are right there and they are safe, therefore you are safe.  When you start to feel panic and your thoughts race, remember to ask "where are your feet?"

Reduce or eliminate caffeine

caffeine is addictive and it's very activating.  If you are trying to eliminate anxiety, you might want to consider eliminating caffeine.  Many people will say that they use caffeine to help them find energy throughout the day and keep them going.  Well, it's a catch 22 because when we use caffeine, our bodies use cortisol to help regulate our adrenal glands.  When we over tax this part of our systems, it leaves us depleted and more tired than we started.  Therefore, if we eliminate caffeine, we may be a tired for a few days while detoxing, but after your body adjusts, you will find that you have more energy and that you sleep better.

Speaking of sleep

A large part of mental health when dealing with anxiety is getting a good amount of sleep.  When we sleep, our bodies do a lot of healing.  Our organs do their cleansing, our hormones rebalance and we are able to function more effectively during waking time.  Also, dreaming is very important for our psyches to process material from our conscious and integrate it with our subconscious.  

Here are a few tips on sleep hygiene:

West Chester, PA Sleep Hygiene Therapy Counseling
  • target bedtime for the same time every night
  • eliminate all electronics from the bedroom
  • reserve your bed for sleeping and sexual activity only - don't do work in bed
  • if you are having trouble falling asleep, get up after 15 minutes and do something non-electronic for 15 minutes, then go back to bed and try to sleep again
  • create a wind-down routine for the last hour before bed

For more information on sleep hygiene contact me at TiffanySpilove@yahoo.com

Anxiety reducing techniques

Here are some proven techniques to help your body and mind relax:

Tense and release

Tighten every muscle in your body.  Start with your head. Tense up your face, your jaw, your eyes, your neck.  Tense up your shoulders, your chest muscles, your stomach, your biceps, make fists as tight as you can.  Tense up your butt muscles, your thighs, your calves, your ankles, your feet and your toes.  Keep all these parts of your body as tense as possible and keep them  tensed up for a full 60 seconds.  Then release.  This tense and release will help your body reduce anxiety symptoms.

Deep Breathing

Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.  Take a deep breath in and try to push your belly hand all the way out with the breath into your diaphragm.  Inhale slowly to 4 counts, then hold for 4 counts, then release slowly for 4 counts and repeat.  When you practice breathing slowly, it will help to slow down your heart rate, thus reduce anxiety.

Bi-Lateral Movement

EMDR Butterfly Hug for Anxiety West Chester, Pa

Any kind of bi-lateral stimulation can help reduce anxiety.  Here are some examples: walking, biking, shifting weight back and forth from one foot to the other, tapping your thighs alternately.  Some others: drumming, swimming, scanning your eyes from one side of the horizon to the other, back and forth.  The butterfly hug is an EMDR technique where you hook your thumbs together so that your hands form a figure that looks like a butterfly.  Put your hands on your chest and tap alternatively around your collar bone area.  This is a great way to self-soothe or find relaxation in times of stress. Here's a video on how to do a different version of a butterfly hug. 

I hope you've found some of these tips useful.  As always, if you have any questions or for more information, please contact me at TiffanySpilove@yahoo.com