Deepok Chopra states that it takes 60 days for a habit to form. Did your lust for wanting to run every day just vanish from reading that? Is that not one of the most daunting things you’ve ever come across? You’re not alone. I heard that on one of his televised programs and mentally groaned.
Soon enough I’ll be starting my meditation challenge. In case you missed my first post, I attempted a 28 day challenge a handful of years ago and after about a week gave up. This time it is a bit different. This challenge is not 28 days, it is to meditate every day, to form a habit of being relaxed and conscious of my body for a few moments. I also want to be able to meditate twice a day, morning and night. Last time’s challenge was only once a day. Yea, it’s very daunting. I’m crazy. I know. BUT… the thing that has changed is that I am very much more educated about the benefits of it through my therapeutic yoga teacher training and continuous self-study.
As I read and learn more and more, I become highly inspired to just get to meditating already. I’m pretty sure this is the key- to become motivated about the habit in advance. And the secret is to stay motivated.
I really want to share this initial inspiration with you, my curious reader, because if it motivates me and creates a fire of excitement in my core, then there’s a chance it can offer you the same feeling in your core. I hope you’ll choose to dive in with me (perhaps at your own time) and see and feel for yourself what breathing and a conscious effort of focusing can offer you. I believe it carries self-gentleness and compassion over in different relationships and throughout a life. Yes, I’ve read that in books over and over, but, in the small hidden pockets of time that I’ve had with meditating I’ve found that to be true. Now I want, and more importantly, need more of that. Do you?
Here are some notes from a few books that make me impatient to begin my journey, my new and healthy habit:
-Meditating is consciousness based medicine, it’s not a religion. If you want to incorporate it into your religious ritual, by all means! It is, in and of itself, a creative endeavor!
-It’s a creative endeavor because there is no right or perfect or best way to meditate. There are endless meditating and breathing techniques out there and more than one will resonate with you. Meditating is letting your conscious mind go beyond the “I” of yourself, it goes into the witness part of your soul, and you just be. Be with that part of you witnessing your stillness, (or attempt of stillness), witnessing your breath, witnessing thoughts that come and release in your mind. That’s all the witness is. In a nutshell it’s higher than the habituated way of thinking.
-The heart rate variability can be heightened with meditation. “EH?” What is HRV?
Okay, so when breathing in, whether through your nose or mouth, you’ll find that your heart rate is faster here than on your exhale. This change of heart beat reflects in our autonomic nervous system. When the heart rate variability is high, it means that the system adjusting the heart rate on your inhale and exhale is responding flexibly to your breathing changes. It’s doing its job well and in a strong effort. When the variability is low, that means something is impaired or the system is becoming more rigid. So you want to increase the HRV, increase it to keep your cardiovascular system flexible and to keep resiliency in your stress response system. Basically, we want breathing tools and healing tools at our disposal in order to control the HRV. Think of it as doing different yoga poses (or “shapes” if you teach trauma yoga) with our breath. We get creative with what breathing shape we choose and as we do, we contribute to our internal flexibility as opposed to our outer flexibility. If our breathing rate stays steady throughout a long duration of time- as in over many years- and we don’t check in and play with our breathing tools, diseases may set in. I include a list of breath techniques at the bottom of this post that I tend to gravitate towards, so feel free to choose one or two and explore with those on a daily basis if meditation is not your thing. Make yoga of the breath your habit for 60 days! And as I record more blogs, you’ll also have a reference as to what breath I’m describing.
-Meditation stimulates the vagus nerve (the “wandering” nerve). What’s the vagus nerve?
It’s the longest nerve in our body that sends pain and stress signals to and from our mind. It also regulates heart, lung, and digestive functions. When you activate this nerve, you cannot be in fight-or-flight mode at the same time!
Tiny tid bit: Yawning, laughing, singing, and eating stimulate the vagus nerve. If you notice, these activities are within the neck, where the nerve extends. With any of these activities, you change your breathing pattern and that playing around helps to increase flexibility! If you sit at a desk all day and cannot show off your vocal pipes without being called into the office, be sure to get up for 5 minutes each hour to walk around and activate your vagus nerve that way!
-Chopra thinks that the practice of yoga is the best way to go when moving from sympathetic overdrive (fight-or-flight) to heightening the parasympathetic system. So my plan is to meditate after practicing yoga of the body. I say yoga “of the body” here because today I’m explaining how to be flexible inside ourselves, in our internal systems, and using different breaths as different poses is an easier, hopefully more accessible metaphor for understanding how to exercise that flexibility. Otherwise, yoga itself is one with breath and body and movement. But more on that another day.
-Pain signals are in our body so we can be aware of them. It’s a form of communication.
– Experienced meditators feel pain more quickly but suffer less than beginning meditators.
Why? Because the anticipation of experienced mediators lessens. Anticipation is just as bad as the pain itself. Their baseline is lower. This resonated a lot with me because I jump and sometimes pain follows in my head so just to lessen that anticipation, I’ll take it! I highly recommend this tidbit to anyone with PTSD and anxiety. You’re not alone.
I’ll be posting more tidbits along the way to keep our motivation going! Look out for tidbits on gray matter and what happens with it as we meditate!
Some Breathing techniques (my favorites!):
Coherent Breath: Sit either upright or become comfortable on your back with knees supported. Inhale for 5 seconds, exhale for 5. It’s suggested that if you are 5 feet or under, 4 seconds will suffice and if you are over 6 feet, 7-8 seconds will do. (Taller people tend to have greater lung capacity)
Double Breath: Inhale through the nose quick then longer, tense the body, then exhale out through mouth quick then longer.
Pursed Lip Breathing: This rebalances the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body. While sitting, inhale for three seconds through the nose and exhale through the mouth for 6 seconds. The exhalation is twice as long as the inhalation. Bringing the breath up to 4:8 is okay if you feel comfortable doing so.
Here are the awesome resources I used to bring you some of the highlights of meditating (and breathing!)
- The Healing Self by Deepok Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi
- The Healing Power of the Breath by Richard Brown and Patricia Gerbarg
- The Breathing Book: Good Health and Vitality Though Essential Breath by Donna Farhi