Taking it Slowly with Nostril Breathing Practices
Find a quiet place to sit and observe the breath in your nostrils - eyes open. Don't change your breath. Breathe in and out a few times. If you are comfortable, try it for a few more breaths with your eyes closed. If you are congested, blow your nose and try it again. This may be all you can manage for a week or weeks. Every single day, find a spot and observe the breath in your nose. You don't need a meditation cushion or any fancy hand gestures, you just need to commit to being aware of your breath once a day - that's it!
The next step is to become aware of one nostril at a time. Begin with the left side. It is easier at first if you close the right nostril while you are doing this - so close your right nostril with your right hand thumb. At first your eyes may be open, but over time you will enjoy the heightened awareness with closed eyes. Count each inhale and each exhale. Start with five. When you are ready, try the other side. Close your left nostril with your ring finger (right hand). Breath in and out five times. Then remove your hand, close your eyes and breath in and out of both nostrils five times. If you feel fine, try it again. Increase the number of rounds over the week as you feel comfortable but practice every day.
Breathing practices can be a shock to your nervous system, so it IS important to take it slowly. So again, the first week just observe the breath in the nose and commit to this every single day. If you miss a day, then continue that simple practice for another week. Don't make up for missed days by practicing three times a day then missing a few days. A consistent, simple practice will be the key to learning to breathe, which ultimately will guide you to being comfortable sitting for a while observing your thoughts. The second week, try one nostril at a time - five left, five right, five both. If you've managed to work up to five rounds and are enjoying the quiet, then you are ready for the next step.
Learning to count the length of your inhales and exhales is the next practice. For now, keep your hands on your lap and count the length of a comfortable inhale and a comfortable exhale. Keep practicing until you find your number matching the length of the inhale and exhale. Once you've found your number, close your eyes and just like week one observe the breath with the count. Try five rounds and then sit quietly and observe how you feel. If five rounds is too many, adjust accordingly. The most important thing is that you remain aware and feel calm. Practice this everyday.
What I've learned from my personal practice and teaching private and public yoga classes is that most people have a challenging time remaining present with their breath. That is why, when you work with me, I encourage keeping the practice very simple - for a long time. When you find yourself doing any of the three aforementioned practices in the lineup at the grocery store, driving in rush hour traffic or even teaching them to your young child at bedtime, then you know you are ready to go deeper. Conscious breathing needs to become a lifestyle practice. The benefits of even these simple practices will have you feeling calmer, thinking more clearly and giving yourself permission to slow down.
What comes next depends on you. You may wish to add the counting to the second practice or slowly increase the length of the count in the third practice. How you build a breath practice is individual and usually requires guidance from a qualified yoga instructor. There are contraindications for many yogic breathing practices so the "go to" recommendation is always to stop if your anxiety level increases, you feel faint of dizzy. This means you've gone too far, too fast. Slow and steady. Keep a simple, daily manageable practice.
For more information on building a breath and meditation practice, check back next Monday or book a private session. Namaste.
Integrative Healing with Sadhana offers instruction and guidance as a full healing package or you can choose individual practices such as Yoga, Meditation, Reiki, Space Clearing or Intuitive Readings in Gibsons BC. Either way, you will be met exactly where you are at and together, we will adapt practices to fit your individual needs improving your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.