Gratitude + 4-7-8 Pranayama.

As I write this evening, I’m in the middle of cooking for a little dinner get together with a close friend. I’m having to double-up tasks from my to-do list lately because my cup is overwhelmingly full. I wouldn’t have it any other way at the moment because everything I’m currently investing my time in, I truly love to do. I also know that my schedule wont be like this forever and during the holidays I usually take a step back to relax.

All that being said I’ve also noticed, as grateful as I am with my life, I’ve been consuming myself in negative thoughts at times. Its as if I don’t allow myself to just fully enjoy where I am at. My schedule is filled with self-care, teaching yoga and fitness, working full time as a Digital Marketer, and spending a majority of my free time investing in my close relationships with friends, my partner, and my dog. I’m grateful quarantine has allowed me the space to find out where I want to truly spend my time. But….

I find myself thinking of how things could go wrong & I know A LOT of us do this to ourselves. It’s as if we’re waiting for the bottom to fall out somehow. And this is not healthy! I was watching one of my online trainings for my 300 Hour YTT program last night and our lead instructor was saying how we need to be careful with what we’re manifesting.

Read that last sentence again.

Wow. This really made me stop and think. Because it isn’t just the good we’re looking to manifest (promotions, raises, good news) but our negative thoughts will also manifest situations that we may not want! And this is what I’m currently guilty of. I find myself pausing in moments & being overwhelmed with how much I love my life and then just as quickly have negative scenarios creep into my thoughts because “life can’t be perfect”. But, yes, it can! We can appreciate how much we enjoy our lives when things are really good. We shouldn’t feel guilty for being grateful and fear that it won’t stay that way. Change is definitely inevitable but we have the right to appreciate the moments we’re in.

So, if you’re like me, and find yourself feeling guilty for appreciating your life, I encourage you to pause and enjoy the below pranayama practice when fear is attempting to rob you of your momentary happiness.

Breath Work:

The following pranayama practice is one of my favorites to practice & teach. It is referred to as the 4-7-8 breathing technique.

  1. empty the lungs of air.
  2. breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds.
  3. hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds.
  4. exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds.
  5. repeat the cycle up to 4 times.

The 4-7-8 breathing technique can also help to decrease anxiety, sleep better, manage food cravings and control emotional responses like anger.

How To Start Meditating.

Meditation can be a scary topic for many as we live in a society that promotes non-stop productivity as the ultimate goal. If we’re not consistently “hustling” than we might feel like we’re failing. But meditation should actually be seen to help benefit our productivity. The practice isn’t only good for our overall health but could actually make us more productive in our daily lives. Taking a moment to slow down helps us to reset & clear our mind, become more present, and appreciate the here & now. This practice will flow into every element of our lives, allowing us to show up more fully in every moment. 

When beginning the journey to meditate, you might feel there are multiple aspects to “get right” but just stepping away to a quiet space to close your eyes and turn inward is really all you need to start.

If you are still stressing to “get meditation right”, here are a few tips to help guide you:

  • Breath
    • If you are a beginner, don’t fret over “calming the mind” but actually focus on the sensations of your breath. Appreciate the smells around you and the feeling of your lungs expanding and clearing. 
  • Mind
    • Focusing on your breath is the easiest way to clear your mind of thoughts. It gives your mind a focal point. When your mind starts to wander (which it will) just recognize you’re thinking and then come back to your breath.
  • Emotions
    • Long-term meditation shows the increased size in brain regions associated with emotional regulation. This can result in the habit of cultivating positive emotions, retain emotional stability, and mindfulness.
  • Arms & Hands
    • Relax your arms & shoulders, letting your hands rest on your thighs or in your lap. 
  • Eyes
    • If working to turn inward, close your eyes. If on days this makes you feel dizzy or emotional, you can anchor yourself to your space by making your eyelids heavy and focusing on the space about a foot out in front of you. 
  • Legs & Feet
    • If you’re sitting in a chair, keep your feet flat on the floor. Draw your spine straight. If you’re sitting cross-legged or on a cushion, make sure your knees are lower than your hips. 
  • Time
    • The length isn’t as important as the frequency so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not sitting for an hour each day. Start in increments aiming to build up over time (i.e. 3 minutes to 5 minutes to 10 minutes). 
    • A timer is very helpful so that you’re not focusing on a clock. There are a lot of app options for a pleasant timer instead of relying on your phone alarm (i.e. Insight Timer, Headspace, Clam). A few of these options will also have a payment option that can then access guided meditation – another great option for beginners. 

Below are a few Breathing Techniques to also try out before or after meditation to calm or energize the body:

  • Warrior Breath
    • Inhale/exhale with no pause 21 times – this super oxygenates the system
    • At the end of the 21 breaths implement the Box Breath for 4 to 5 rounds
  • Box Breath
    • Inhale big for 5 counts
    • Hold for a count of 5
    • Exhale slowly for a count of 5
    • 4-5 rounds
  • 2-7-8 Breathing
    • Inhale for 2
    • Hold for 7 
    • Exhale for 8
  • Skull Shining Breath (Kapalabhati)
    • Take a long, slow inhale
    • Exhale rapidly through the nose by “snapping” in your lower belly for 10
      • Inhale will occur naturally
    • Inhale fully 

Meditation might be intimidating but it doesn’t need to be because all you need is time to give to yourself. Beginning today can help radically change your life for the better. I’d love to hear where your meditation practice is at and what it has helped you learn about your life!