What is the quality of life that you want? Have you thought about what this means or where you find it? Is it based on your surroundings? Does living in a beautiful home with luxuries and beautiful scenery bring ‘quality’ to life? What if you have quality surroundings but your mind is disturbed? We have to take a closer look at life. There is an inward dimension and an outward dimension. The outward dimension, your surroundings and all the things you own and have, is not where the true quality of life can be measured because a quality life is feeling happy, peaceful, loving and fulfilled. You might enhance those feelings by what you do in the world, particularly by doing for others, but there is no guarantee that what happens outside will control what is happening inside. For life to blossom you have to do something that addresses the mind. You already have a tool that works very effectively on the inner dimension of life, you just need some skill in using it. That tool is your breath. The breath can have an immediate influence over your mind and vice versa. You have seen that when your mood changes, the breath changes. If worried, you hold the breath and breath shallow. If sad, you have longer exhales. In the other direction, if a friend gets upset the first thing you say is, “take a deep breath and relax”. The ancient Yoga tradition developed many breathing techniques called “pranayama” to help calm the mind, cleanse the system of stress, energize the body, and prepare you for meditation. Some of these techniques can be learned quickly and take very little time practice. Here are two practices to begin your journey.
- Alternate Nostril breathing calms the mind in as little as a few minutes. It is an excellent practice to do before beginning meditation or to calm intense emotions. It is safe to do at anytime as much as you like.
- Bellows Breath. This is a very energizing technique that also quiets the mind. Ideally you sit-up straight and have your knees lower than your hips. If possible sit on the floor with your legs folded under you. You can also sit on the edge of a chair with legs folded under the chair which lowers the knees.