A Breathing Technique to Help Embrace Change
Change! It can be a blessing or a curse depending on your perspective. One thing is certain: like death and taxes, change is inevitable. So what can we do when faced with change? We can resist change and wait for things to return back to normal – good luck with that. We can complain and “make do.” Or we can embrace change by letting go of the old and recalibrating ourselves to prosper in the new.
Buddha taught us that life is an illusion. But how can that be? How can an object I see with my eyes and can touch with my hands be an illusion? Perhaps Buddha meant that what we think is reality is actually our perception of it. Researchers have documented many examples of bystanders witnessing the same event with each individual person having a different recollection of it.
Just recently I was talking with my brother about a specific experience from our childhood and noticed that even though we were both there, each of us remembers totally different things about what happened and how it happened. In fact, I did not even remember half of the things my brother described. Indeed, many countries are now attempting to make changes to how witness testimony is treated in court.
If our world is so much influenced by our perception of it, then our ability to adapt is driven by our internal state as well. This means we can influence our reaction to change by changing our internal self. Perhaps you can remember a time when you felt stressed and unbalanced and because of that you reacted with aggression, anger and fear. And perhaps there was another time when you felt balanced and calm and so you were able to remain in your own power and respond with ease and grace.
Breath is a great tool for centering the mind and calming the body. In yoga we call this practice Pranayama. There are many different types breath work, each one with a specific focus. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama is a special breathing technique that balances the left and right side of our body bringing clarity and peace to our emotional, physical and spiritual selves.
Try this alternate nostril breathing practice right now:
- Sit up straight, feet on the floor, back long.
- Pick up your right hand, curl in your pointer (2nd) and pinky (5th) fingers. The thumb, middle (3rd) and ring (4th) fingers remain extended. You will use the thumb to close off the right nostril and middle and ring fingers to alternately close off the left nostril.
- Place your left hand comfortably in your lap.
- Take several regular breaths focusing on the air coming in and going out, noticing the quality of your breath. Is it deep or shallow? Does it flow easily or do you have to force it? Take your attention to your mind. Is it quiet or full of racing thoughts? Take your attention to your emotional state–how do you feel right now?
- Close off your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale deeply through your left nostril.
- Close off your left nostril with your middle and ring fingers, let go of your right nostril and exhale through the right nostril.
- Keep the left nostril closed as you inhale through the right nostril.
- Use your right thumb again to close off the right nostril, let go of the left nostril and exhale through the left nostril.
- Keep the right nostril closed as you inhale through the left nostril.
- Repeat steps 6-9 for three full cycles.
- Place your right hand down on your lap and once again take in several regular breaths, noticing the quality of your breath, mind and emotions.
Most likely you will notice a difference after completing three full cycles of this breathing technique. Next time you find yourself reacting strongly to change, or feeling anxious, give this breathing technique a try and see if it helps you prosper in the new, rather than “make do” or resist the change completely. At the very least, it may help you quiet your mind long enough to calmly examine why you are having a strong reaction in the first place.
Article originally published in Holistically Savvy