Nadi Shodhana: Alternate Nostril Breathing

Earlier this week during one of my pilates classes, the instructor repeatedly mentioned how foreign it felt to her to breathe both in and out her nose, which she has been doing while wearing a mask. In so many forms of exercise and meditation, we are taught to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, so it makes sense that she feels a bit awkward going against the system she was taught. Apparently, this has been quite a topic of conversation in various pilates circles, so today I’m choosing to focus on Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing.

While it has been accepted in certain exercise circles that inhaling through the nostrils and exhaling through the mouth is the best breathing pattern during physical exercise and meditation, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, it can actually make it harder for us to oxygenate our systems under certain circumstances, as many of us begin to essentially pant through our mouths during stressful situations or high intensity workouts. As always, it’s good to have a number of alternatives in your bag of tricks. You already know how to breathe in and out of both nostrils at the same time, but you’re probably less familiar with Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing. Nadi Shodhana has been used in meditative practices since time immemorial. It’s quite easy to learn and can be used anywhere and at any time you feel anxious or distressed. Like many meditative practices, there are several different styles from which you can choose. We’re going to cover the basics, and you can look more deeply into the various practices on your own if you’re inclined to do so.

We will be actively using the thumb and ring finger for this exercise. You may place the index (pointer) and middle fingers between your eyebrows, or curl them into the palm of your hand to get them out of the way. The pinky finger can rest on the ring finger or just hang out and relax. I will be cueing this as if you are using your right hand. For those, myself included, who are not exclusively right-handed, use your left hand and adjust the wording of the cues accordingly.

As always, sit in a comfortable position and take a few deep breaths to prepare for the practice.

  • Start by closing your right nostril with your right thumb. Slowly inhale through the left nostril. Try to maintain a steady pace while inhaling. Some people find it helpful to inhale while counting to five.
  • Close your left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are now closed.
  • Briefly pause.
  • Open your right nostril and slowly exhale. Again, try to maintain a steady pace while exhaling, counting to five if you need to to maintain a steady pace.
  • Briefly pause.
  • Slowly and steadily inhale through the right nostril.
  • Hold both nostrils closed.
  • Open your left nostril and slowly exhale. Again, try to maintain a steady pace while exhaling.
  • Briefly pause.
  • Repeat this cycle at least five times.

Try it during your meditations this week and see what you think.

 

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

Yoga for Depression

We’ve already reviewed the neuropsychological benefits of meditation as a whole. Now it’s time to look at the emotional benefits of yoga meditation. Many people diagnosed with depression also present with a variety of other medical conditions such as Type II diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. We know that physical inactivity is associated with higher levels of depression. We also know that, for treatments to work, they need to be cost effective and readily available.

With that in mind, Jacinta Brinsley, an exercise physiologist, and her research group at the University of South Australia, Adelaide set out to find evidence-based treatments for depression that involved physical movement. In this case, the researchers chose to focus on studies that utilized movement-based yoga, or asana. They reviewed the results of nineteen studies involving a total of more than 1,000 patients. While the patients in the studies had been diagnosed with a variety of mental health disorders including depression, alcohol dependence, schizophrenia and PTSD, to narrow the scope of their research, they concentrated on reduction of the symptoms of depression.

What they discovered was:

  • Participating in a movement-based yoga program did help to reduce symptoms of depression.
  • Those patients who practiced more frequently enjoyed greater symptom reduction; the more times per week they engaged in the practice, the better their outcomes.
  • The length of the yoga session was not critical for symptom reduction.

Interestingly, although they chose to focus on reduction of depressive symptoms, their review revealed that the largest effect was actually found in the patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, even though only roughly 25% of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia report experiencing depression as well.

In the United States we have seen a marked rise in requests for mental health treatment over the past several months. Now more than ever it is imperative that we continue to engage in self-care activities as well.  As the pandemic continues and many of us are restricted in our options for physical activity, yoga is an inexpensive and easily attainable form of physical activity that has physical, emotional, spiritual and neurocognitive benefits. I really do encourage you to try it.

 

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

 

Yoga Meditation

In the west, most associate yoga with a series of poses or postures, more of a physical exercise than a mental one. However, yoga did not begin as a physical exercise. Instead, it consisted of mental exercises designed to assist in the meditative process. Although yoga was utilized well before this, a sage in India known as Patanjali first collected and documented 196 sutras, or maxims on the theory and practice of yoga, around 500 to 200 BCE. These sutras were compiled from numerous traditions already in practice at the time. Patanjali has been quoted describing yoga as follows (and interpreted into English): “Yoga essentially consists of meditative practices culminating in attaining a state of consciousness free from all modes of active or discursive thought, and of eventually attaining a state where consciousness is unaware of any object external to itself, that is, is only aware of its own nature as consciousness unmixed with any other object.” For those of you who are interested in exploring the 196 sutras, this Wikipedia article is a good place to start. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga_Sutras_of_Patanjali

In February of this year I briefly touched upon yoga and encouraged you to view Dr. Heidi Sormaz’s video lecture series on yoga. Dr. Sormaz attained a doctorate in psychology and is a certified yoga instructor. While she specializes in Forrest Yoga, in the lecture series she provides a survey of the most common yoga practices found in the United States. This series can be rented from various libraries or purchased via Amazon or The Great Courses.

To more specifically focus on learning the ins and outs of meditative yoga, I recommend Adriene Mishler, an international yoga instructor in Austin, Texas. In addition to hosting a YouTube channel, Yoga with Adriene, she offers classes on her website. Some are free, some have a set cost, and some invite you to “pay what feels good.” During these tumultuous times, I know that finances are an issue for many and am always trying to find affordable solutions so that everyone can benefit. Adriene Mishler is very generous with her free and pay what feels good offerings. Her videos are down-to-earth, the classes quite doable, even for novices, and her style very relatable. All in all, a great way to begin to dabble in meditative yoga. Here’s the link to her website: https://yogawithadriene.com/adriene-mishler/

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

Metta Prayer for World Healing by Kyiahshekanna

This metta prayer for world healing was posted by Kyiahshekanna in 2011. I feel it is still relevant today. By now you know the structure of a metta prayer, so you can add yourself and other individuals to your prayer as well.

Metta Prayer for World Healing

May all beings have fresh clean water to drink.
May all beings have food to eat.
May all beings have a home.
May all beings have someone to share love with.
May all beings know [their] true purpose.
May all beings be well and happy.
May all beings be free from suffering.
Today I shall do what I can, to make this so.

Amen

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

 

A Metta Prayer composed by Maylie Scott

Metta prayers can consist of any number of different desires and sentiments. I encourage you to read those written by others, as you strive to develop your own personal metta prayer. Last week we reviewed one based upon the work of Thích Nhất Hạnh. This week we’ll look at a metta prayer composed by Maylie Scott. Maylie Scott was a Zen Buddhist priest and social worker who was passionate about social justice. Prior to her death, she devoted much of her time assisting those in prisons and homeless shelters throughout California.  She wrote this metta prayer in 1994:

This is what should be accomplished by the one who is wise,

May I be well, loving, and peaceful. May all beings be well, loving, and peaceful.

May I be at ease in my body, feeling the ground beneath my seat and feet, letting my back be long and straight, enjoying breath as it rises and falls and rises.

May I know and be intimate with body mind, whatever its feeling or mood, calm or agitated, tired or energetic, irritated or friendly.

Breathing in and out, in and out, aware, moment by moment, of the risings and passings.

May I be attentive and gentle towards my own discomfort and suffering.

May I be attentive and grateful for my own joy and well-being.

May I move towards others freely and with openness.

May I receive others with sympathy and understanding.

May I move towards the suffering of others with peaceful and attentive confidence.

May I recall the Bodhisattva of compassion; her 1,000 hands, her instant readiness for action. Each hand with an eye in it, the instinctive knowing what to do.

May I continually cultivate the ground of peace for myself and others and persist, mindful and dedicated to this work, independent of results.

May I know that my peace and the world’s peace are not separate; that our peace in the world is a result of our work for justice.

May all beings be well, happy, and peaceful.

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

 

 

My Favorite Metta Meditation

Last week we focused on creating a Metta to help you to begin to love and accept yourself. This week we’re going to cast our nets a whole lot wider and try to truly embrace the benefits of Metta meditation. In addition to blessing yourself, you will then bless others you know, followed by all sentient beings. That’s a lot to take on. Where to start?

My favorite Metta meditation is adapted from No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, by Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s a lot longer than the one we practiced last week, and a lot harder to truly mean it as you say it. So, how do you go from a basic Metta meditation to honestly and fully embracing this meditation? It takes work, dealing with your own emotions and shortcomings. True confession: some days it is easier for me to say it and mean it than others. Again, that’s OK. On those days when it’s not that easy, it’s time to do some self-reflection, some soul searching. Why is it hard today? Am I angry with myself? With others?  With the entire world?  Why?

Let’s give it a try.

May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May s/he be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May s/he be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May s/he be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May s/he be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May they be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.

May I be safe and free from injury.
May s/he be safe and free from injury.
May s/he be safe and free from injury.
May s/he be safe and free from injury.
May s/he be safe and free from injury.
May they be safe and free from injury.

May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May s/he be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May s/he be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May s/he be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May s/he be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May they be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I learn to look at him/her with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I learn to look at him/her with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I learn to look at him/her with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I learn to look at him/her with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I learn to look at them with the eyes of understanding and love.

May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in him/ her.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in him/ her.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in him/ her.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in him/ her.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in them.

May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in him/her.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in him/her.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in him/her.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in him/her.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in them.

May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in him/her every day.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in him/her every day.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in him/her every day.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in him/her every day.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in them every day.

May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May s/he be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May s/he be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May s/he be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May s/he be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May they be able to live fresh, solid, and free.

May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May s/he be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May s/he be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May s/he be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May s/he be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May they be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

I do wish this for each and every one of you. ‘Til next week.

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.