Square breathing ◻️

My brother @socratixsw1 introduced me to a incredibly powerful deep breathing practice. It’s a relaxant after stretching or before bed.

Inhale for 5 seconds; hold your breath for 5 seconds; exhale for 5 seconds; when you’ve emptied your lungs, don’t breathe in again for 5 seconds; then inhale for 5 seconds. Repeat for 1 minute or 3 cycles.

5 seconds in, 5 seconds hold, 5 seconds out, 5 seconds no breath. Draw the square in your head – 4 sides of 5 seconds each.

Start out with 3 sets which gets you to 1 minute. The 3 sets will turn into 6 sets pretty effortlessly once you find your stride.

Clean out the Canister

After a stretching session remember to drink a glass of water. Avoid the temptation of drinking while stretching, but stay hydrated before and after the session.

Try the following exercise when you have a drink of water at the end of the session:

Slow down and take a deep breath. Wiggle your toes and feel the floor supporting you. Relax your shoulders and jaw.

Imagine each sip of water swirling through your body from top to bottom.

Focus on the brain with the first sip and feel the water washing through your head onto your brain and the sides of the skull.

The next sip of water washes over your shoulders and into your lungs. The next sip sloshes down your arms and into your finger tips You get the drill? Elbows, buttocks, knees. Rinse out your body. The cold water moves through your body and dilutes the toxins.

It’s like rinsing out a dirty canister.

With the final sip imagine all the water slowing seeping out of your feet and into the floor. Let gravity be gravity. The floor is thirsty and will drink it up.

The exercise slows you down and makes you conscious of your body from your nose to toes.

It’ll clean you out, ground and recharge you.

Extend and Open Up

Here’s a quick morning stretching exercise. Actually you can do it anywhere, while waiting for a bus, standing in line for lunch or cooking over the stove.

Stand up straight and imagine a string attached to the top of your head. The string slowly tightens and lifts up your head and extends your neck. You are getting taller and taller as your neck and spine extend. Keep your eyes level and shoulders and jaw relaxed.

At the same time plant your feet firmly on the ground and apply pressure to your heels rooting them to the floor. Wriggle your toes and feel the ground.

You now have your head and neck extending like an ostrich and are anchored to the ground like an oak tree.

As you grow taller, every joint opens up from your knees, hips, spine, chest and neck.

Take 3 deep inhales and exhales while in this posture.

Dedicate your practice

At the beginning of a yoga class, the teacher asks us dedicate the class to someone or something. Maybe it’s a place, maybe a person. Breathing, stretching and stillness benefits us, but also everyone else around us. We are all connected, so therefore whatever you do effects me.

Dedicating a class clarifies our intention behind a practice and reminds us that self-improvement is not about the individual, but the collective. This works for any exercise – dedicate a walk, a run, a swim, a bike ride or a breathing exercise.

The act of dedication make us pause and reflect on why we are doing this every day, and that it’s not just about us. Enjoy!

Show up and be 

Yoga doesn’t mind about your mood. Its nose doesn’t get put out of joint because your mind is all over the place, or you feel bloated, achy and tired. Yoga doesn’t mind if you are feeling out of sorts. 

It’s just asking  you to show up and be. That’s all. The rest will take care of itself. 

Falling out and learning how not to

Yoga is about gentle balance. A yoga pose is about using body weight and strength to oxygenate. The only way to improve is to gently push the body beyond its comfort level as technique improves. Going beyond the limits means losing balance and sometimes falling out of a pose. Don’t get frustrated when a pose ‘breaks’ and you find yourself flat on the mat. Falling out and learning how not to is the way to improve.

Gently push yourself everyday, and remember if you are forcing it then it isn’t yoga.