#BE15for15 – Day 15 – How to keep the party going
Hooray! You made it to Day 15! Congratulations! Here is where we will tie all of the components that we have worked with over the past 15 days together. If you enjoyed this experience – if you feel like you are benefiting from your practice and learning new things about your body, your breath and yourself – and you want more – please do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Breathe Easy: mindful breathing made simple. It includes the content covered in the #BE15for15 challenge and much more! Breathe Easy is available as an ebook, a paperback, and an audio book. The audio book version also includes a 15 minute guided daily practice track that helps you connect with many different areas of your body where you can feel the movement of your breath. You can use whatever format (or combination of formats) works best to support your practice.
If you live in Minnesota and would like to schedule an appointment (or a series of appointments) to work on your own breathing practice in more depth and detail, you can book those sessions here. The 60 minute initial session is recommended if we have never worked together before. If you live outside of the Twin Cities metro and would like to connect for a solo appointment (or series of appointments) via skype, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “I want to breathe easy”. You can use whatever format (or combination of formats) works best to support your practice.
Moving forward, I encourage you to practice your Breathe Easy mindful breathing practice every day for best results. Use the Breath Check-In Basics printable (available when you sign up for the newsletter list at backinbody.com) to help cue you through the important parts of checking in with your senses. Remember that this is an experiment and to just notice what is. You don’t have to worry about doing things “right”. If you keep showing up to your practice and watching your breath every day, the rest will take care of itself. There is no set prescriptive amount of time for this practice, so feel free to tailor your practice to your day. A few minutes is better than none. You may want to play with a shorter time interval like 3 minutes on days when you feel like your schedule is full. With time and experience, I encourage you to play with longer time periods, like 30, 45 or 60 minutes. You will figure out what works best for you each day.
When you begin practicing for longer periods of time (or any amount of time at all, really), you may notice that your mind begins to wander to other thoughts that don’t have anything to do with your breathing. This is okay and perfectly natural. It doesn’t mean that you, or your practice, are a failure. It is a part of the practice. Minds think thoughts. Minds wander. When you catch your thoughts drifting to something other than your breath and how it is moving through your body, very gently redirect your awareness back to the breath. Use kindness and the type of patience you would use with a young child whom you love very much. We often talk to ourselves in ways that we would never speak to others and in ways that we would not tolerate from others. Develop a zero-tolerance policy for self-harm. This is a skill that takes time to grow and refine. Learning to show patience and kindness to yourself as you go through the sometimes-awkward process of learning a new skill like mindful breathing will have wonderful crossover and you will see that patience and kindness begin to show up in other areas of your life.
There will be some days when your mind is easily distracted and others when your focus is on point. Success in this sort of practice is not measured by which kind of day it is. That is a sneaky trap. Don’t fall for it. Success in this type of practice is measured in your ability to show up for your practice day after day without expectation or getting attached to how you think your practice should look or feel.
The basics of developing a daily practice involve identifying what it takes for you personally to form a habit. This may mean practicing at the same time and in the same place every day… or it may not. That all will depend on who you are and what you need. There is that experiment piece showing up again. You may try many different approaches before settling into what feels like it works best for you. You may develop a set practice that works for years and then decide at some point that you want to change your approach. However you proceed, if you keep showing up for your practice you can’t do it wrong.
You may want to find a quiet place to practice when you first begin and you may want to play with using music in the background. The advantage to not using music is that you can hear your breath more easily, while you may find that music may help you feel more relaxed at first if you are not accustomed to sitting in complete quiet. You may also enjoy using the audio Breathe Easy daily practice (track 21) for 15 minutes of detailed guided breath experience. This recording takes you through grounding into the sensory experience of your breath and connecting with the different areas of the body that are discussed in the posts from this challenge and more. When you want to focus on your breath and experience without having to guide yourself through your practice this can be a wonderful option.
Now lets get to today’s practice!
Find a comfortable place where you would like to practice your intentional breathing. You may choose to be seated, standing, lying down, or whatever other position feels the most comfortable to you right now.
Whatever position you choose, let yourself take a moment to connect with your foundation. Feel your body where it contacts the ground below and notice a sense of strength and stability that comes from that connection. As you feel ready, lengthen upward from that strong base. If you are sitting or standing, allow your spine and the crown of your head to lift toward the sky. If you are lying down, become aware of the long sense of spaciousness all along your spine from your tailbone to the top of your head. You may choose to let your eyes close at any point if that helps you to feel your breath.
Let your awareness be drawn to your breath. Feel the breath as it moves in and out through your nostrils. Allow yourself to observe your breath as it is right now without changing anything.
Become aware of the rate of your breath, whether it feels fast or slow.
Notice the depth of your breath, whether it feels shallow or deep.
Check in with the quality of your breath, noticing whether it is flowing smoothly or has rough edges.
Notice if there is any sound associated with your breath.
Are there are any emotions or feelings associated with this experience of your breath? Let yourself feel what is there without the need to get into any story around it.
Allow yourself to suspend any judgment about whether the way you are breathing is “good” or “bad” and let your self be fully present with what is. Notice where you feel your breath moving in your body. Gradually invite your breath to become more full and deep.
As you breathe in, allow your belly to gently soften and expand outward and downward. As you breathe out, gently draw your belly inward and upward to press out any stale air that may be lingering in the lower parts of your lungs. Allow the breath to begin to flow more deeply. With each inhale, draw your breath in and down so that it feels like your breath is flowing all the way down into the base of your pelvic bowl. As your belly gently expands outward, your pelvic floor expands downward. As you breathe out, gently draw your pelvic floor in and up, and draw your belly in and up as you exhale softly and completely.
As you take a breath in, visualize your breath traveling in and down through your nostrils, chest and abdomen, until it fills your pelvic bowl. As you breathe out, visualize the breath traveling up and out through your abdomen and chest, then exiting through your nostrils, as you feel a sense of energetic lift from the pelvic floor, upward through your body – traveling along the channel just forward of your spine. With each inhale, feel the breath flowing in and down – filling the body from the pelvic bowl, up though the abdomen, ribcage and chest. With each exhale, feel the softening – letting go of what you no longer need. Continue breathing in this slow smooth fashion.
Draw your awareness around to the sensations at the back of your body. With each inhale, feel the breath moving in and down along the channel just forward of your spine all the way until it reaches the tip of your tailbone. As you exhale, feel the breath trace that same path back up and out of the body as it leaves through the nostrils. With each inhale, feel a sense of expansion between your shoulder blades and a general broadening across the whole back body. With each exhale, feel a gentle sense of lift from your hip bones, upward through your waist along the spine.
Allow yourself to draw your awareness around to the sides of your body. With each breath in, notice a sense of expansion under your arms. With each breath out, feel the ribcage gently releasing. Inhale, feel your ribcage expanding out wide to the sides. Exhale, feel your ribcage soften.
Draw your awareness now to the breath as it flows freely on all sides of the body. With each inhale, feel the breath flowing in and down – filling the body from the pelvic bowl, up though the abdomen, ribcage and chest on all sides of the body. With each exhale, softening – letting go of what you no longer need. As you continue breathing in this slow smooth fashion, your body and mind become more and more deeply relaxed.
Begin to draw your awareness to the space between your ears and behind your eyes. With each breath in, feel an increasing sense of spaciousness and expansion within your head space. As you exhale, allow yourself to feel a gentle sense of lift, upward through the crown of your head – as if you are a whale softly spraying water up out of your spout. Inhale, feel the space between your ears broadening and your eyes softening. Exhale, feeling the crown of the head floating lightly upward. Continue with this smooth, full breath pattern at your own pace – feeling spaciousness on your inhale, and a sense of lift on your exhale.
Notice how you feel right now.
Check in with your physical body, becoming aware of any sensations calling out for your attention.
Notice your mental state and the quality and speed of your thoughts. Do not dive into any of the subjects of your thoughts at this point. Casually observe your thoughts as if from a distance and notice what’s showing up for you now.
Check in with your subtle emotional body and again, take notice of what your feel.
Realize that there are no right or wrong answers here – only loving observation. Allow your awareness to fully return to your breath and where you feel it moving through your body.
As you breathe in, feel the breath drawing down deep into your body, feeling a sense of spaciousness and expansion on all sides of your body and within your head space. As you breathe out, feel a sense of lifting in and up as the muscles of your pelvic floor and belly begin the lift that starts the cascade of energy zipping upward – following the central channel just forward of your spine and outward through the crown of your head.
There is a dynamic pulse that flows through our breath and life of inhale/expansion, exhale/release. Allow yourself to feel this gentle pulse move through your entire body as you breathe. With each inhale, feel the physical body softly expanding in all directions. With each exhale, feel a sense of release and energetic lift. Continue feeling this pulse of life as you take five more breaths at your own pace. Feel free to close your eyes and focus on your breath and sensations if that is helpful to you. When you feel ready, you can gently blink your eyes open. In this way that you just experienced, the breath is a living and dynamic expression that flows through you.
When you feel ready to begin your practice, set your timer – or press play to begin your guided Daily Breathe Easy practice (included with the Breathe Easy audio book). Allow yourself to continue to observe your breath for 15 minutes. Focus on the easy, gentle movement of the breath in your body during your practice today. Notice any thoughts, sensations, or emotions that reveal themselves to you through this experience. Do not fight them or judge them. Simply notice what shows up and allow it to be. Keep connecting with the movement of your breath in your body.
Maintain this connection to your breath and when you feel ready, gently blink your eyes open if you have closed them.
Notice how you feel after connecting with your breath. If you are using a journal during this process (which I highly recommend), record how you feel after your second 15 minute experience. Did you feel subtle movement of the breath in the back of your body? How does it feel to connect with your sides? Write down any observations that feel important to you about this awareness based experience with your breath in your journal now. Did this experience feel challenging? Did it feel easy? What did you notice? Was your practice today different than yesterday? If so, in what way(s)? Remember to be kind and to give yourself the gift of grace. If you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section! I hope you have enjoyed your practice and learned a lot over the past 15 days. Please share a bit about your #BE15for15 challenge experience in the comments section of the blog, or via Facebook so we can all learn and grow together!