#BE15for15 – Day 8 – Connecting with the back body

Another dramatic change that we can begin to make right now, is to begin breathing in all three dimensions. We can begin using the lung space on the sides and back of the body in addition to what we have already explored on the front. As we briefly touched on before, there is lung space on all sides of your body. We typically don’t think about breathing into our sides and back, unless we are taught that this type of breath is even a possibility and are then shown how.

 

Let’s begin with feeling the breath on the back of the body. Begin to focus your attention on feeling the breath as it travels in and down along the back of your body.

 

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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. Inhale and feel the space at the base of the ribcage on the back of your body broadening and expanding. Exhale and feel this same area soften and release.

 

Allow your eyes to close if this helps you tune in to your breath. Take five more breaths focusing on the sensation of the breath in the back body. When you feel ready, gently open your eyes.

 

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 at the back of 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 at your back 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 back? 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.  Tomorrow we will discuss how to use tactile feedback to help us connect with our breath more easily.  You can work with a partner or on your own for that experience.  If you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section!  I’ll do my best to keep up!

Happy Breathing!

<3 Martha

#BE15for15 – Day 7 – How does posture play together with the diaphragm and pelvic floor?

Hello darling!  Today I have a video to share with you to offer you some insights about some of the topics of the past two days, as well as introducing some more information about posture and the orientation of the diaphragm and pelvic floor.  Please give it a watch and try any of the suggested bits that you like.  I apologize that the audio isn’t very high quality – this was recorded before I got a lavalier mic.  The content still gets the point across and is safe for work and the ears of little ones.  Happy viewing!

 

 

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 at your pelvic floor 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 at your pelvic floor.

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.  What did you notice about the position in which you usually hold your pelvis and ribcage? How does it feel to try to back your weight/pelvis up? When you move toward lining up your diaphragm over your pelvic floor, how does that change your breathing experience?  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.  Tomorrow we will discuss connecting to the movement at the back of our bodies when we breathe.  If you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section!  I’ll do my best to keep up!

Happy Breathing!

<3 Martha

#BE15for15 – Day 6 – Pelvic Floor, the Belly’s BFF

Today let’s talk about the deep abdominal muscles best friends… the deep muscles of the pelvic floor! The muscles of the pelvic floor act as a muscular hammock that gives support to your body at the base of the pelvis. These muscles span from the pubic bones in the front to the tailbone in the back and side-to-side from one sitting bone to the other. They support our internal organs as well as helping us to stabilize our spine.

It’s not uncommon to lose connection with these muscles in the same way you could lose touch with a friend if you don’t communicate regularly. In the beginning, it may feel tricky to connect with the pelvic floor if you have not attempted to “talk” with your pelvic floor in a long time – or ever. If you have had any trauma to the tissues of the pelvic floor resulting from childbirth, surgery or injury, please be patient and kind with yourself. You may not feel your pelvic floor muscles moving as we work on this next component. If that is the case, don’t worry. With practice eventually you will re-establish this connection. For now just stay open to the possibility of feeling connection and movement at the pelvic floor in the future.

The pelvic floor, like the belly, is also a common area where we may hold tension without being aware of it. If you encounter resistance to the movement of the breath and to sensation in the pelvic floor, don’t be discouraged. Invite your breath to begin to move gently into this area. Take your time and be compassionate with yourself. Honor any resistance or emotion that accompanies this work.

If you have experienced sexual trauma, proceed with gentle awareness. If working with increased breath and awareness in the lower abdomen and pelvic floor begins to bring up emotions, continue breathing, honor these feelings and proceed at your own pace. The body can hold experiences in its tissues, and it is possible that working with the body and breath can begin to draw out stored information about such experiences. Using the breath and awareness to release and move through these experiences can be highly beneficial. Please reach out for all of the help and support you need, whether it be from friends, family members or supportive professionals like psychotherapists, so that you can move into a greater space of integration and healing through this experience.

The pelvic floor naturally moves in a manner similar to the respiratory diaphragm that we talked about before. As we inhale, the pelvic floor relaxes downward. As we exhale, the muscles of the pelvic floor draw gently in and up. One way to think about this action is to picture the center of your pelvic floor (that point midway between your genitals and anus) gently drawing in and up as you exhale. As you inhale, let this same point relax gently downward. Similarly to the belly, it is just as important to be able to let the pelvic floor relax as it is to be able to have it contract. In the following photos, my hands are placed about where the pelvic floor is located to show the subtle movement that occurs with the breath.

 

 

Inhale - the breath flows all the way down into the pelvic bowl and the pelvic floor relaxes downward.

Inhale – the breath flows all the way down into the pelvic bowl and the pelvic floor relaxes downward.

 

 

Exhale - the breath flows back up and out of the body and the pelvic floor rises upward. The pelvic floor is a soft sheet of overlapping muscles, so there is no pointy bit like there is with my fingers in this photo.

Exhale – the breath flows back up and out of the body and the pelvic floor rises upward. The pelvic floor is a soft sheet of overlapping muscles, so there is no pointy bit like there is with my fingers in this photo.

 

Let’s give this awareness of the pelvic floor a try while we breathe now. Allow your focus to be on your breath and the subtle action of your pelvic floor. As you inhale, allow your pelvic floor to softly relax downward. As you exhale, feel your pelvic floor gently drawing in and up.

 

Lets take five more breaths just like that, focusing on the subtle movement of your pelvic floor.

 

The deep abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor muscles are considered “co-contractors” because they work best when they work together to help stabilize your spine and facilitate full breathing. Let’s explore integrating the motions at the pelvic floor and the belly. 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 inhale, allow yourself to feel a sense of expansion and spaciousness at your pelvic floor and in your belly. As you exhale, feel a sense of energetic lift from the pelvic floor, upward through your body. Feel the exhale travel upward just in front of your spine, up toward the crown of your head. Take five more breaths like that now. You may close your eyes and focus on your breath and sensations if that is helpful to you. When you feel ready, allow yourself to gently blink your eyes open.

If you are still having difficulty feeling the movement at the pelvic floor, don’t worry. The more you tune in to the sensations of your pelvic floor and practice noticing what is happening in this area of your body, the easier this motion will become to feel. All it takes to reconnect with forgotten areas of the body is time, practice and patience. Be gentle and practice patience and kindness with yourself as you re-establish this connection.

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 at your pelvic floor 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 at your pelvic floor.

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 pelvic bowl? How does it feel to connect with the pelvic floor? 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.  Tomorrow we will discuss connecting the movement at the belly and the subtle movement at the pelvic floor with how we sit or stand.  Posture can influence our breath (and how the diaphragm and pelvic floor relate to one another) quite a bit.  If you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section!  I’ll do my best to keep up!

Happy Breathing!

<3 Martha

#BE15for15 – Day 5 – Belly Love!

Love That Belly <3

Love That Belly <3

Embracing and loving our bellies can help us to breathe better.  After paying attention to what is happening at the abdomen while you breathe for the past two days, you may have noticed a couple of patterns that can occur instead of an easy flowing movement of the stomach in and out. Sometimes, people develop a reverse breathing pattern, where they are “sucking it in” on the inhale and letting the belly drop on the exhale. Sometimes there really isn’t much movement happening in the belly at all and the abdominal muscles are constantly kept in a guarded state of contraction. Neither of these options are natural or particularly effective breath patterns. They are developed through fear, cultural influence and the idea of “sucking in the gut”.

This is where it becomes important to get comfortable with the idea of letting our belly soften. Many of us hold our belly in all the time to appear more slender and fit. While it is important to be able to contract our abdominal muscles quickly, strongly and effectively for many different activities, it is just as important to learn how to relax them.

Any patterns of chronic holding, contraction and shortening don’t serve our bodies well. This contributes to maladaptive energetic holding patterns as well as to physical tightness and imbalances. A strong muscle isn’t one that is always tightly clenched. A strong muscle is one that can alternate between a relaxed and contracted state in a responsive, coordinated way.

How has it felt to focus on the movement at your belly for the past two days?  Did you notice any reluctance to let your belly soften?  Have you been holding your stomach in tightly for years?  Sometimes when people have held tension in the belly for years, it can feel scary or impossible to allow the belly to soften. Practice letting the belly relax in places and at times that feel safe and eventually it will get easier. The expansion of the belly on the inhale may also feel rough and jagged initially. With practice it gets easier to draw the breath deeper and deeper into your body. Over time, the movement of your belly in and out will become increasingly smooth, free and easy.

We will devote our focus to the smooth flow of breath along the front side of the body for our practice today.  Unless you are congested, let’s breathe in and out through the nose. If you are having difficulty breathing through your nose, please feel free to breathe through your mouth. Allow the breath to flow freely and smoothly in and out, with no pause between inhale and exhale.

Connect with your foundation – feeling your feet on the floor, your seat grounding if you’re sitting – then lengthen upward from that strong base.

When 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.

When we breathe in, we allow our belly to gently soften and expand outward and downward.

When we breathe out, we gently draw our belly inward and upward to press out any stale air that may be lingering in the lower parts of our lungs.

While we breathe smoothly and fully this way, our neck and shoulders stay soft and relaxed.

If you feel ready to begin your practice now, 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 at your belly 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 at your belly.

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 this experience feel challenging?  Did it feel easy?  What did you notice?  Did you notice any movement happening at your belly?  Did it feel smooth or jagged?  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.  Tomorrow we will discuss bringing our focus to the pelvic floor and the subtle movement that can occur there during our breathing practice!  If you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section!  I’ll do my best to keep up!

Happy Breathing!

<3 Martha

#BE15for15 – Day 4 – Why does the belly move?  The diaphragm!

The reason that the belly moves as we inhale and exhale has to do with a very important muscle for breathing… our diaphragm! The diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped sheet of muscle that is located just beneath the ribcage. It’s not only at the front side of the body, but runs all the way through the body from front to back and from side to side. The diaphragm separates the torso into the chest above and the abdomen below. It is also the main muscle used in a full healthy breathing pattern!

As we inhale, our diaphragm pulls downward, changing the pressure in the chest so that air is drawn into the lungs. As we exhale, the diaphragm draws back up to assist in pressing air out of the chest. When the diaphragm draws down as we breathe in, our abdominal organs have to go somewhere to let the diaphragm move fully – that is why the belly relaxes outward as we breathe in. As we exhale, the diaphragm draws back upward and our belly can draw in and up back toward the spine. In the following photos, my hands are placed about where the diaphragm is located to show this motion.

INHALE – THE DIAPHRAGM MOVES DOWNWARD

 

EXHALE- THE DIAPHRAGM MOVES BACK UPWARD

EXHALE- THE DIAPHRAGM MOVES BACK UPWARD

 

When we don’t allow our diaphragm to move fully because we are holding our belly in tight, this restriction can contribute to pain and dysfunction in several areas of the body. We touched on the way that chest breathing can lead to tension and pain in the neck and upper shoulders, due to the overuse of the accessory breathing muscles like the scalene and sternocleidomastoid muscles. These muscles are designed to be used to help us breathe when we are really physically active and our diaphragm needs a little bit of back up. We may also use those muscles when we are having difficulty breathing due to an illness or a condition like asthma. They are not intended to do the majority of our breathing work, and overuse of these muscles through chest breathing can lead to chronic neck and shoulder pain and tension.

 

Another area that suffers when we suck in our stomach and don’t allow our diaphragm to move is the low back. There is a correlation established between chronic low back pain and abnormal breathing patterns. When the diaphragm and the belly aren’t allowed to move freely, there is an increase in abdominal pressure as we inhale that can cause an increase in pressure on the spinal structures. This increase in pressure can exacerbate symptoms in people who are managing spinal disc injuries.

 

The health and function of our pelvic floor can be negatively impacted by always holding the belly tight, too. It is essential for the belly to relax outward and downward as we inhale to prevent excessive pressures from pushing upward into the chest cavity above the diaphragm, backward toward the spinal structures and downward into the pelvic floor. When we hold tension in our abdomen, we also usually hold tension in our pelvic floor. This combination of chronically held tension in the pelvic floor and the abnormal pressure exerted on the pelvic floor when the belly is held rigidly can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction and urinary leaking.

 

Let’s try this diaphragmatic or belly breathing now.

 

Place your hands on your belly and as you inhale, feel your breath moving in and down to fill your hands. This motion is not pushing the belly outward, but rather allowing it to soften passively with your inhale.

 

INHALE

INHALE

 

As you breathe out, feel your belly draw in and up, toward your spine and away from your hands.

 

EXHALE

EXHALE

 

Allow yourself to take five more full breaths like that. You may close your eyes and focus on your breath and sensations if that is helpful to you.

If you feel ready to begin your practice now, 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 at your belly 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 at your belly.

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 this experience feel challenging?  Did it feel easy?  What did you notice?  Did you notice any movement happening at your belly?  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.  Tomorrow we will discuss more about the process of learning to love the natural movement of the belly, and how that will help us in our breathing practice and life!  If you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section!  I’ll do my best to keep up!

Happy Breathing!

<3 Martha

Laughing Buddha - Medium#BE15for15 – Day 3 – Free the belly!

Happy day to you!

Before we go any further and move into practices that will deepen the breath, I want to mention a brief note of caution. While we have all been breathing every day since birth, working with the breath in ways we aren’t used to may make some people feel dizzy or light headed. If at any time you feel dizzy or light headed, please sit or lie down and return to your own quiet breathing pattern until this sensation passes. Over time and with practice, your body will get used to a more full breath pattern.

This program is designed to provide you with the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of mindful breathing while utilizing very gentle and safe techniques. There may be specific individuals who would benefit from a slightly modified approach due to their unique history or conditions.

If you have any medical conditions, specifically conditions affecting your lung or heart function, please talk with your doctor before beginning the next part of this (or any) breathing program to determine if any modifications should be made for you.

My big question for you now is this… During your practice for the past few days, where did you feel your breath moving in your body? Where are you feeling your breath moving in your body right now?  If you aren’t sure, allow your eyes to close and take five full breaths while being open to feeling the sensation of the breath moving through the body. If you still aren’t sure after trying the five breaths, that’s okay too.

Many of us only feel movement of the breath in the area of the upper chest and on the front of the body when we first start our breathing practice. This is called chest breathing and it is a very common pattern. It’s also really inefficient and can cause a lot of tension in the neck and upper shoulders. If you know you hold tension in this area of your body, it is very likely that you are doing a lot of chest breathing. Chest breathing can contribute to neck and upper shoulder tension and discomfort as the accessory (or helper) muscles used in breathing that are located in the neck have to work harder when we aren’t letting our diaphragm move fully.

Since we now know that chest breathing isn’t the best option for getting oxygen into our bodies, let’s talk about how we can begin to make use of more of our lung space rather than just that front, top portion. The first step in being able to use all of our lung space is to become aware of where it is. One way to think about all the lung space you have is that if there are ribs around it, there is lung tissue in it! The rib cage wraps from the back of the body at the spine, around the sides and joins together at the sternum – or breastbone – at the front of the body. There are some other organs protected by the rib cage, but the lungs do fill most of the space of the rib cage on ALL sides of the body. Imagine if we took full advantage of all of that lung space every time we took a breath in and out!

We’ll start with an awareness exercise where we focus on breathing on the front side of the body. Unless you are congested, let’s breathe in and out through the nose. If you are having difficulty breathing through your nose, please feel free to breathe through your mouth. Allow the breath to flow freely and smoothly in and out, with no pause between inhale and exhale.

Connect with your foundation – feeling your feet on the floor, your seat grounding if you’re sitting – then lengthen upward from that strong base.

When 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.

When we breathe in, we allow our belly to gently soften and expand outward and downward.

When we breathe out, we gently draw our belly inward and upward to press out any stale air that may be lingering in the lower parts of our lungs.

While we breathe smoothly and fully this way, our neck and shoulders stay soft and relaxed.

If you feel ready to begin your practice now, set your timer – or press play to begin your guided Daily Breathe Easy practice (included with the Breathe Easy audio book – track 21).  Allow yourself to continue to observe your breath for 15 minutes.  Focus on the easy, gentle movement at your belly 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 at your belly.

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 this experience feel challenging?  Did it feel easy?  What did you notice?  Did you notice any movement happening at your belly?  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.  Tomorrow we will discuss more about why the belly moves while we breathe and the healthy action of a very important muscle for breathing – the diaphragm!  If you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section!  I’ll do my best to keep up!

Happy Breathing!

<3 Martha

 

 

 

 

 

#BE15for15 – Day 2 – Mental chatter and focus.  Help!  My brain won’t turn off!

How did your 15 minutes go yesterday? You may have noticed that sometimes it feels easy to feel a deep sense of connection with your breath and all of a sudden… “squirrel!” You catch yourself thinking about what you will make for dinner, how work will go/did go today, that conversation with so-and-so, your favorite TV show that’s on later… if you are anything like me, you may notice the tendency to become frustrated and then even begin to beat up on yourself. “Gah! I can’t even focus on my breathing for 5, let alone 15 minutes!”

animal-927929_1280

When you begin practicing for longer periods of time, 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.

Do you remember where you felt your breath moving yesterday?  Use the same basic check-in today that we practiced yesterday.  Be sure to give yourself the gifts of kindness and grace when you notice your mind wandering.  Gently call your attention back to your breath by using the elements listed in this check-in.

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.

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.

If you feel ready to begin your practice now, 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… Notice any thoughts, sensations, or emotions that reveal themselves to you.  Do not fight them or judge them.  Simply notice what shows up and allow it to be.

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 taking this moment to connect 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 this experience feel challenging? Did it feel easy? What did you notice? Where in your body did you feel your breath moving?  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.  Tomorrow we will discuss how to begin to connect with the breath in different parts of our bodies.  Again, if you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section!  I’ll do my best to keep up!

Happy Breathing!

<3 Martha

 

 

 

IMG_0213#BE15for15 – Day 1 – Getting Started.  Let’s take a baseline measurement.

What is mindful breathing?

All mindful breathing means is that we will be paying attention to our breath. It really is as simple as that. Mindful breathing is a great practice for many reasons.   Mindful breathing is something that you can practice anywhere, and you don’t need any fancy or expensive equipment. You can begin at any age or fitness level to improve your well being right now. Your breath practice will enhance and support you in whatever other activities you’re already doing.

Mindful breathing is a simple tool with profound effects that can help us get out of the swift current of thoughts flowing through our head and into a grounded experience of life in our body. If you have always wanted to try meditation and weren’t sure where or how to start, today is your day! Meditation can be quite simple and approachable. It doesn’t have to be something that feels complicated or intimidating. All it takes to begin a meditative breathing practice is applying your loving dedication and shining the brilliant light of your awareness on something that we take for granted on a daily basis… our breath!

Today – Day 1 – I invite you to focus on taking a baseline for your 15 day challenge.  It is impossible to know how much you have grown, learned, or changed if you don’t have a clear idea of your starting point.  Taking a baseline is simple.  We begin by noticing what is.  As you breathe today, notice where you feel your breath moving in your body.  Check in with your breath without trying to change or control it.  Be with your breath. Spend 15 minutes, free of distractions and focused on your breathing.

LEARNING HOW TO TUNE IN TO YOUR BREATH – AN AWARENESS BASED EXERCISE

 
You can make the choice to either be sitting or standing for these exercises.  In whatever position you have chosen, feel your feet flat on the floor, a comfortable distance apart. 

If you are sitting, feel your sitting bones –the bony points at the base of your butt- press downward gently into your chair.  Sit with your back upright and away from the back of your chair if you can.

If you are standing, maintain that grounded connection with your feet and allow your knees to stay soft, keeping a little microbend in your knees at all times.
 
Allow your spine and the crown of your head to lengthen upward toward the sky from this firm foundation.  If it helps you to focus on your breathing, once you have read these directions, allow your eyes to gently close.  Take a moment to feel your breath right now without changing anything.

Simply by bringing your awareness to your breath you may notice that it is already beginning to change… if your breath becomes more full and deep, make a mental note that this is what your body is naturally calling for when you make the time and space to listen to it.

Now we are going to try an experiment… there is no right or wrong here and no judgment.  This is all about just noticing what is.  In this experiment, you are a scientist objectively observing your breath.

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.

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.

If you feel ready to begin your practice now, 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… Notice any thoughts, sensations, or emotions that reveal themselves to you.  Do not fight them or judge them.  Simply notice what shows up and allow it to be.

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 taking this moment to connect with your breath.  If you are using a journal during this process (which I highly recommend), record how you feel after your 15 minute experience.  Did this experience feel challenging? Did it feel easy? What did you notice? Where in your body did you feel your breath moving?  Remember to be kind and to give yourself the gift of grace.  Tomorrow we will discuss how to address wandering minds, and on Sunday we will begin to work on how to connect with the breath in different parts of our bodies.  If you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section!  I’ll do my best to keep up!

Happy Breathing!

<3 Martha

blowingdandelionBE15for15#BE15for15 – What Is It?

#BE15for15 is a free, fun, mindful breathing challenge.  The goal is to commit to practicing mindful breathing for at least 15 minutes for 15 days in a row.  This can be done on your own by setting a timer (or using an app like Mindfulness Bell or the Universal Breathing Room on doasone.com) for 15 minutes and drawing your attention to your breathing.  If you would like more guidance and support, I have created a 15 minute guided mindful breathing practice audio track that can be purchased with the Breathe Easy audiobook on Amazon/Audible and iTunes that walks you through your practice.  Using the guided practice, all you have to do is claim your dedicated 15 minutes out of your day and press play.  I also highly recommend keeping a journal about your mindful breathing experience and any interesting things that you notice during this process.

This round of #BE15for15 will begin on June 1st.  I will be sharing prompts, exercises and reflections via email each day to help you stay engaged with the challenge.  Please consider adopting this simple and powerful habit for 15 days in June – and invite your friends and family to play along, too!  To receive the daily email prompts from June 1-15th, simply visit the Back In Body website and subscribe to the e-newsletter using the form at the bottom left of the page.  If you are already subscribed, you are all set to go!

If you are looking for more information to support your practice, Breathe Easy: mindful breathing made simple, is now available in ebook, audiobook and softcover form!  Check out the ebook and audiobook here and the softcover here to learn more about breathing mechanics and fun ways to learn about your own anatomy and physiology.

 

Happy Breathing!

<3 Martha

Breathing Easy in 2016!

The new year is upon us and I have some exciting news to share!  If learning to breathe more fully or developing a mindful breathing practice are on your list of goals for 2016, you will want to explore this post thoroughly.

My program, Breathe Easy: mindful breathing made simple, is now available in workshop, private session, ebook, audiobook and softcover form!  Check out the ebook and audiobook here and the softcover here.  There is more information about workshops and private session packages below, too!

hardcover-book-mock-up-sales-page

Breathe Easy 15 minutes for 15 days –   #BE15for15

#BE15for15 is a free, fun, social media challenge.  The goal is to commit to practicing mindful breathing for at least 15 minutes for 15 days in a row.  This can be done on your own by setting a timer (or using an app like Mindfulness Bell or the Universal Breathing Room on doasone.com) for 15 minutes and drawing your attention to your breathing.  If you would like more guidance and support, I have created a 15 minute guided mindful breathing practice audio track that can be purchased with the Breathe Easy audiobook on Amazon/Audible and iTunes that walks you through your practice.  Using the guided practice, all you have to do is claim your dedicated 15 minutes out of your day and press play.  I also highly recommend keeping a journal about your mindful breathing experience and any interesting things that you notice during this process.  This round of #BE15for15 will begin on January 15th and I will be using social media to help you stay engaged with the challenge.  I will be creating a Facebook group that will be active while the challenge is running.  I plan to run this challenge monthly in an ongoing fashion.  Please consider adopting this simple and powerful habit for 15 days in January – and invite your friends and family to play along, too!

 

Breathe Easy Private Instruction Package!

The Breathe Easy Private Instruction Package includes (10) 60 minute sessions with Martha (in person at my office or via Skype), a softcover copy of Breathe Easy: mindful breathing made simple, a CD with a guided daily Breathe Easy practice and a bonus guided relaxation track, as well as a list of other great breathing related resources you can use to deepen your understanding and practice.  In these personalized sessions, you can address your questions and concerns while working toward your goals with ongoing support, encouragement, and tips from someone who has been there and understands the obstacles to – and joys of – developing a regular mindful breathing practice.  This is a great option for people seeking to make a deeper level of commitment to their breathing practice and to be held accountable for their own practice between scheduled sessions.  If you are interested in purchasing this private instruction package, please call me at 612.321.6913 or email me at marthadesantedc@gmail.com to continue the conversation.  The price of this package is $1000.00.  All 10 sessions must be used within 12 months of purchase.

If you are not sure if you are ready to commit to (10) 60 minute sessions, you can schedule individual sessions here to explore your breath with one-0n-one support.

 

Breathe Easy Workshops!

I have had great fun offering Breathe Easy workshops at various locations and have a few more dates that are now available!  I will be hosting Breathe Easy at the Salt Cave in Minneapolis on Saturday, February 20th and March 12th from 9:50am-10:50am.  For more information about these workshops or to purchase tickets, please read more by following the links in the text.

SaltCave

 

Breathe Easy Facilitator Training and Certification – in development!

I am in the process of putting together a Breathe Easy: mindful breathing made simple Facilitator Training and Certification program to help spread the important work of breath education in a systematic and standardized way.  I want to ensure that this work is shared with competency, confidence and compassion.  If this sounds like something you may be interested in, stay tuned for future correspondence as this program develops.

Happy Breathing!  I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016!

Martha

Martha DeSante DC, CYT