Taking a Breath

I love springtime flowers.  For some reason, they are the only ones I seem to be able to grow.  Lilacs and Lilies-of-the-Valley are my favorite scented backyard flowers.  I cut them and put them around my house so that we can savor the long-awaited Wisconsin springtime.  Last week, I had done a good cutting and was putting the flowers into vases (and it looked like a second-grader had done it.....my springtime flower talents do not extend to arranging).  While arranging with abandon, I started to think about breathing for calm.  This made me wonder if having scented flowers around us could help to maintain a sense of calm.  Had flower bouquets become peace offerings for the same reason? 

Does a delicious scent encourage us to breathe in a way that is more helpful to us?  The smell of cookies baking in the oven never makes my kids crabby, for instance.  Is the pine scent in our house from the Christmas tree a part of the magical vibe of the season that seems to encourage peace too?  It stands to reason.  

Then, there are essential oils.  I've recently jumped on that bandwagon, and I'll happily stay on it for the ride.  Lavender helps my daughter and I turn off our busy monkey minds at night so that we can fall asleep.  Diffusing citrus oils in the house really does seem to lift the energy, even when I don't tell anyone what the scent is meant to do for them.  The sense of smell is powerful, but I wonder if it's also about the breathing itself.  

Breathing slow, deep breaths has a calming effect.  The trick is in remembering to do it regularly so that we can call up the magic when we need it most.  I was talking recently with a friend about stress and the quickest way to put it on its heels.  I think the answer has to be in our breath.  What's really very positive about this is that we don't have to buy a product to do this or necessarily go through a long training session.  Just breathe.  Slowly, evenly, deeply, and mindfully.

Yoga gives us different breathing practices to achieve different states of mind.....tranquility, energy, cooling, heating, balance.  As my yoga teacher Mara Campbell states:  "Breath as an anchor to the blustery conditions of our boat, the mind."  Isn't that beautiful?  It is a nice reminder that our anchor resides inside of us and that we have the power to summon it when we need it.

Pranayama is the process used to understand what breathing does to our bodies and to our minds.  There are lots of areas of study here, but if you want to give yogic breathing a try, here's a sample.  Samavritti Breath can help achieve a sense of balance.  Start out practicing in a quiet spot so that you can focus only on your breath.  Match your inhales and exhales in length and quality.  After a few minutes of this, you might want to try adding a retention in the breath (known as Kumbhaka) with ratios of 1:1:1.  Inhale: Retain the Breath: Exhale.  Make each part of the ratio the same length.  With practice, try to extend the time of each part of the ratio.  If you do this three times a day for five minutes, I think you will find some good in it for yourself.  If you try it, I'd love to hear how it goes.  Feel free to leave a comment.

I wish for you a week with less stress and more peace!


P.S.  When this blog posts, I'll be just returning from a yoga retreat in Costa Rica.  I hope to have some great stuff to share with you from it.  !!!!