The Gift of Active Relaxation

stress-391657_1280The Gift of Active Relaxation

With the United States election season in full swing, many are feeling stress and anxiety stirred up by the increasing polarized political climate.  If you are feeling the strain of election season, here are a few simple suggestions to help you ground and reconnect.

  1. Unplug.  The constant news cycle isn’t healthy or relaxing for anyone.  Choose to engage with media on your own terms and in limited amounts.  Also, I’m a firm believer in the “don’t read the comments” approach.
  2. Get outside!  Take a walk with a family member or friend.  Go for a hike, bike, swim or run.  Move your body. No matter what the election outcome, you still have a physical body that loves to connect with fresh air and movement.  Don’t neglect that part of yourself.
  3. Get some quality sleep.  Turn off your electronics, get into bed and enjoy the physical and mental break that sleep provides.  You will be glad tomorrow morning that you got that extra sleep rather than reading that 100th political post or watching that 1000th cat video.
  4. Breathe and let go.  Control what you can in your own life so that you are making choices that are in alignment with your own values.  Recognize that you can only control your own choices and behavior and release the rest.
  5. Practice active relaxation techniques.  Meditate.  Practice guided relaxations.  Practice mindful breathing.  Active relaxation is different than cruising social media or watching TV.  While there may be a time and place for those activities, they do not replace an active relaxation practice or have the same health and relaxation benefits.  I have included a few options to help and support you in this area below.

Relaxation support options…

Here are a couple ideas to promote active relaxation for you.

  1. If you are a bath person, soaking in the tub is a great form of relaxation.  You can pair this with number 2.
  2. Listen to some music that you find relaxing.  Musical preferences vary widely, however something with a slower beat that approximates a regular, rhythmic heartbeat can extra soothing.  Play with options with and without lyric and notice how they make you feel.
  3. Practice mindful breathing.  This can be as simple as making a few moments to get quiet and pay attention to your breath.  If you want more help and guidance with this practice, check out the Breathe Easy products and programs.  There are many posts on the Back In Body Blog that share breathing guidance and suggestions as well.
  4. Practice actively tuning in and then consciously relaxing different parts of your body.  If you want more help and guidance with this practice, you can enjoy listening to audio guided relaxations from Relaxation Station any time.
  5. Mindful snuggling/cuddling with a partner, child, friend or pet.  Spend some time enjoying the healing benefits of physical contact.  Double points if you check in with your breath during this time.

Hopefully these ideas help you to navigate this time with more comfort and ease.  I wish you a day of full spacious breaths, a bit of movement and a bit of rest in whatever ways and amounts you like!

<3 Martha

Learning to Breathe Easy

Learning to breathe more fully and developing a mindful breathing practice can enhance your life in many ways.  A regular mindful breathing practice can support you as you move toward your health and wellness goals.  I am so excited to offer you this short taste of mindful breathing!  The following information is a combination of knowledge and techniques drawn from my experience singing in professional choirs, my training in yoga and Pilates instruction and my education and practice as a Doctor of Chiropractic.  These diverse experiences are combined in the techniques and ideas found in my new book, Breathe Easy: mindful breathing made simple.  Keep reading to learn a bit more about mindful breathing and try a short guided breathing experience.

Mindful breathing is great because you can practice anywhere, and you don’t need any fancy or expensive equipment.  You can practice mindful breathing 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 also 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.

All it takes to begin is your loving dedication and shining the brilliant light of your awareness on something that we all take for granted on a daily basis… our breath!

 

WHAT DOES BREATHING DO FOR ME?

 
With every activity that requires time and dedication, most people have one question… What’s in it for me?  We’ll touch on the basics of what breathing does for our bodies now and if you like, you can explore in more detail by reading the book, or in a workshop or private sessions.

Breathing brings fresh oxygen into the body and gets carbon dioxide out of the body. When we breathe in, oxygen comes into our lungs as we inhale and it is transferred to our blood, which carries the oxygen to all our cells and tissues. The blood then picks up carbon dioxide and other waste products from our cells and carries it back to our lungs, where it is released as we exhale.

In this way, efficient breathing keeps our cells and tissues fresh and energized.  Breathing well also helps to keep our thinking clear because the brain, even more than other organs, really needs a steady supply of oxygen to do its job well.

We could even think of our breath as the most important element in maintaining our health. If we think about the things that we typically associate with a healthy lifestyle, like food, water, and sleep for example… and we compare these things to the breath… the breath always comes out on top for vital importance in maintaining our health and even sustaining our life.  Another way to think about this is that we can go for quite a while without food and still survive (maybe a few weeks)… we can go slightly less long without sleep and water (maybe a few days) and still recover… but we can’t survive more than a few minutes without 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, 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.

 

Take 3 more breaths like this.

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 like how you feel right now and want to learn more about how to build your own mindful breathing practice, keep reading to see what other resources are available to help you build this excellent skill set.

 

More Breathing Resources for You!

If you would like more practical, down to earth resources to help you learn more about how to breathe better to improve your health and life, 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, challenge.  Sign up for the Back In Body e-newsletter (sign-up form is at the left side of the bottom of the page) and prompts for your mindful breathing practice show up in your email inbox for 15 days, beginning on the first day of the month.  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.  The next round of #BE15for15 will begin on June 1st.  I will be using daily email prompts to help you stay engaged with the challenge.  Please consider adopting this simple and powerful habit for 15 days – and invite your friends and family to sign up and play along, too!

Breathe Easy Private Instruction Package!

The Breathe Easy Private Instruction Package includes (10) 60 minute sessions with Martha, 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.  Please include the words Breathe Easy in the subject line of your email.  The price of this package is $1000.00.  All 10 sessions must be used within 12 months of purchase.

If you would like the opportunity to explore your breath with one-0n-one support, and are not sure if you are ready to commit to (10) 60 minute sessions, you can schedule individual sessions here.  I encourage you to begin with a 60 minute session for your initial visit for best results.

Breathe Easy Workshops!

I have had great fun offering Breathe Easy workshops at various locations around the metro.  I am currently looking at my calendar and planning and scheduling the next round of offerings.  I will share more information on dates and locations through the Back In Body e-newsletter and the Back In Body and Breathe Easy Facebook pages.

Happy Breathing!

Martha

Martha DeSante DC, CYT

 

Breathing Easy in 2016!

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

Belly Love – Letting it all hang out!

Belly Love – Letting it all hang out!

Its time for some belly love!

Embracing our bellies can help us to breathe better.  I know that might sound weird, because what do our bellies have to do with breathing.  Stick with me here.  Have you ever heard of belly breathing?  How about diaphragmatic breathing?  There are tons of health and relaxation benefits associated with this type of breathing, from improved mood and energy to enhanced relaxation…and who doesn’t like feeling good?

If you want to try a short belly – or – diaphragmatic breathing exercise with me right now, keep on reading!

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 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 ribcage so that air is drawn into the lungs. As we exhale, the diaphragm draws back up to assist in pressing air out of the ribcage. 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.

When we’re thinking about contracting the abdominal muscles to pull the belly back toward the spine, the action is a flattening and broadening of the belly on the exhale as it draws gently in and up. We are using the deep abdominal muscles (particularly the transversus abdominis) to help us perform a full and active exhale. When we exhale fully, we are clearing out as much stale air from the lungs as possible, making room for fresh oxygen rich air.

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 abs are constantly kept in a guarded state of contraction. Neither of these options are natural or particularly effective breath patterns. They are developed through 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 relaxed and contracted in a coordinated way.

If you think about this same sort of chronic holding pattern with a muscle like your bicep, keeping the bicep constantly in a state of contraction really doesn’t allow for any functional use of that muscle. You need to be able to have that full range from contracted to relaxed in order for that muscle to be functionally useful and effective.

Breathing fully and allowing the belly and the diaphragm to go through their full ranges of motion will gently massage the abdominal organs, allowing them to release waste products and draw in fresh oxygen from the blood. A supple belly, responsive, soft and strong, is what will serve us the best in our breath practice and in life.

Let’s try this diaphragmatic or belly breathing now. Allow your eyes to close if that helps you focus on your breath… well maybe let them close after you read what you will be doing 😉

Place your hands on your belly and as you inhale, feel your breath moving in and down to fill your hands.

INHALE

2014-07-08 16.57.22

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

EXHALE

        2014-07-08 16.57.29

 

 

 

 

 

Allow yourself to take five more full breaths like that.

When you feel ready, gently blink your eyes open. Think about where you were feeling the breath moving in your body that time.

If you are someone who is used to holding the belly in and tight, this may feel really challenging.  With practice it gets easier to draw the breath deeper and deeper into your body and the movement of your belly in and out will become more smooth, free and easy.  Practice connecting with deep breathing and allowing your belly to move.  Start with three breath check-ins per day of at least 10 breaths each.  Be open to noticing any changes or feelings that arise as part of this experience.

If you live in Minnesota, and would like to get more in depth with learning about your breath, I will be offering a workshop about mindful breathing at the Mississippi Market Co-op on West 7th St. in St. Paul next Thursday, April 23 from 6-8pm.  For more information, or to buy tickets, please click here :)

Getting Friendly With Your Breath

I am so jazzed that so many people really loved the Breath Check-in Basics printable gift!  In the spirit of that enthusiasm, I thought I would share a sneak peek at some of the content from my upcoming e-book about mindful breathing for beginners.

I am so excited to offer you this short taste of my introduction to mindful breathing! The following information is a combination of knowledge and techniques drawn from my experience singing in professional choirs, my training in yoga and Pilates instruction and my education and practice as a Doctor of Chiropractic. This e-book combines diverse techniques and ideas to create the foundation for your own intentional breathing practice.

CONGRATULATIONS!

I want to congratulate you for choosing loving self-care in the form of this intentional breathing practice.  For best results, I recommend that you PRACTICE EVERY DAY.  You can devote as much or as little time as you feel is appropriate… just remember that this is one of those opportunities where you get out of the practice what you put into it.
 
Intentional breathing is great because you can practice anywhere, and you don’t need any fancy or expensive equipment.  You can practice intentional breathing 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.  Intentional breathing is also 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.

All it takes to begin is your loving dedication and shining the brilliant light of your awareness on something that we all take for granted on a daily basis… Our breath!

 

WHAT DOES BREATHING DO FOR ME?

 
With every activity that requires time and dedication, most people have one question… What’s in it for me?  We’ll touch on the basics of what breathing does for our bodies now and get into more detail at in person private sessions, workshops or in the e-book, once it is released.

Breathing brings fresh oxygen into the body and gets carbon dioxide out of the body. When we breathe in, oxygen comes into our lungs as we inhale and it is transferred to our blood, which carries the oxygen to all our cells and tissues. The blood then picks up carbon dioxide and other waste products from our cells and carries it back to our lungs, where it is released as we exhale.

In this way, efficient breathing keeps our cells and tissues fresh and energized.  Breathing well also helps to keep our thinking clear because the brain, even more than other organs, really needs a steady supply of oxygen to do its job well.

We could even think of our breath as the most important element in maintaining our health. If we think about the things that we typically associate with a healthy lifestyle, like food, water, and sleep for example… and we compare these things to the breath… the breath always comes out on top for vital importance in maintaining our health and even sustaining our life.  Another way to think about this is that we can go for quite a while without food and still survive (maybe a few weeks)… we can go slightly less long without sleep and water (maybe a few days) and still recover… but we can’t survive more than a few minutes without 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, 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.

 

 

Take 3 more breaths like this.

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.

 

More Breathing Resources for You!

If you would like more practical, down to earth resources to help you learn more about how to breathe better to improve your health and life, I will be releasing an e-book called Breathe Easy through Amazon.  This will likely happen in April 2015, although I am being flexible with myself about the release and am trusting that it will be ready when its ready.  I’ll keep you posted.  If you are living in Minnesota and will be in the Twin Cities this April, I will be offering the Breathe workshop that started it all at various locations around the metro. Information about the first scheduled workshop is listed below.  I will add more information about workshop opportunities in the near future.

 Breathe: A Beginners Guide to Mindful Breathing

Thursday, April 23 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Mississippi Market- West 7th

Non-Member: $20.00
Co-op Member-Owner: $15.00

Click here to purchase tickets now!

Just in case you did not get the chance to print out the gorgeous Breath Check-In Basics printable, here is another opportunity for you to enjoy it!  Click Back In Body Breath Check-in Basics to access the printable pdf version.

Breath Check-in Basics Art 2015