This is a modification of a breathing exercise called Coherent Breathing first introduced to me by Michael Shea. You can find this and many other embodiment practices in Body Compassing: Meditation-for-Healing.
We often get stuck in cyclical thoughts and feelings, which take us away from living our lives.
This is a simple exercise to help manage cyclical thoughts and/or feelings
1) Consciously become aware of a cyclical thought/feeling you are having or have been having recently.
2) Name it. Get a good sense of the puzzle you are trying to solve in your head and how it makes you feel overall.
3) Now shift your attention to your breathing. Notice the in and out movement of you breath. Make no changes to the way you breathe, just notice the movement of your breath in your chest, abdomen and body. If your thoughts kick in, notice the return of your thoughts and then bring your attention again to your breathing.
4) Count the number of seconds you breathe in and the number of seconds you breathe out. The number of seconds in plus the number of seconds out is one breath cycle. Let’s say your normal breathing pattern is 3 seconds in and 3 seconds out. Your breath cycle would therefore be 6 seconds. Breathe three times at your normal breath cycle.
5) Add one second to your breath cycle. So if you were doing 3 seconds in and 3 seconds out, now do 4 seconds in and 4 seconds out. Don’t pause in between breaths. You want the breath to flow from in to out without any holding or pauses. Breathe 3 times at your new breath cycle number.
6) Add another second. In the case of our example, you would now be at 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. Breathe 3 times at this number.
7) Slowly increase the number of seconds you breathe in and out until you feel like you are breathing a full breath in and out without forcing yourself to breathe. You want deep full breaths that are easy. If you find yourself gasping for air, suddenly breathing out or in, feeling light headed or agitated, then simply go back down to a number of seconds in and out that makes you feel comfortable. There are interval timer apps that can help you count the seconds of your breathing.
8) Maintain the counting of your breath cycle for a total of 5 minutes. Once the 5 minutes are up return to your daily activities, placing your thoughts on the activity at hand instead of your breath. If the cyclical thought/feeling shows up again, shift your attention again to your breathing. Repeat the process of counting in and out breaths until you are able to settle your mind.
9) Once the thought/feeling stops repeating, mentally register that it has stopped. The acknowledgement that the pattern has changed is important, as it affirms that things are different.
(NOTE: Want to take control of your health? See Samantha Lotti’s Body Compassing: Meditation-for-Healing Course by clicking here.)
Why this exercise helps manage cyclical thoughts and/or feelings
This exercise does two things
1) It interrupts the neurology of repetition around a mental pattern you have. All neurological patterns are strengthened through repetition.
If you engage with stressful and oppressive thoughts in a loop, the thoughts will become ever more imprinted in your neurology. If you actively decide to disengage from those patterns, you break the circuit in the neurology and make your brain develop a new neurological pattern.
By repeatedly redirecting your attention to your body you slowly diminish the mental intensity of what you’re thinking about and return yourself to what’s happening in the present moment.
Placing your attention on your body helps you build embodiment skills that support your overall health, and returning your attention repetitively to the present moment allows you to engage with life more fully.
2) Focusing on increasing your lung capacity increases the amount of oxygen you take in and the amount of carbon dioxide you breath out.
Increasing oxygen intake improves cellular activity and metabolism. Some people report increased mental clarity and sense of feeling more awake or alive.
Consistently taking in higher levels of oxygen and releasing greater amounts of carbon dioxide for 5 minutes has a calming effect on your nervous system.
Consciously breathing in and out for 5 minutes is like taking a mini vacation for your body. Allowing moments throughout your day where your nervous system can destress and relax significantly improves its ability to function and for you to perform your daily or work tasks.
Author: Samantha Lotti
Samantha Lotti is the founder of Biodynamic Health and creator of Body Compassing. She is a certified and registered Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist (BCST, RCST®), licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) and board certified herbalist in Oak Park, Illinois. A personal back injury brought Samantha to biodynamic craniosacral therapy and ignited her interest in a variety of healing modalities.