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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Staying Calm and Carrying On at 22,000 Feet

Flying into Chicago today
I'm terrified of flying. Crazy terrified. And, lo and behold, I'm currently writing this blog post from 22,000 feet in the air on my way to Chicago for work...

As a yogi (and as a New Yorker merely trying to survive in this crazy city), I try to roll with life's punches and stay calm and carry on and (insert overused idiom of choice). But, let's be honest, I'm not the Dalai Lama (shocking revelation, I know). I'm your typical type-A gal who needs to be in control of EVERYTHING in her life. But, at the same time, I'm currently navigating this winding path towards peace and balance and contentment and I'm trying so, so hard to periodically take a deep breath and LET GO. But flying is my Achilles heel when it comes to living this so-called yogic life. It simply unnerves me and deeply offends my control-freak sensibilities.

But, prior to today's take-off, I tried some pranayama practice (that's yoga speak for breathing practice - the extension and control of the breath) and you know, I have to admit, it actually worked. A common physiological manifestation of stress is a shortening and shallowing of our breath. However, if in response to stressful situations we consciously tune in to our breath and slow it down and deepen it, this will stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system and when we stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system, this causes our bodies to relax and chill the eeeeffff out.

So if you ever find yourself under mad stress, try to use this breathing exercise as your chill pill (it's even better than xanax, trust me) and let me know if it works. It's called Deergha Swasam (for the yoga geeks out there) or three-part-breathing (for all you normal peeps) and it's super easy to do and, better yet, totally discreet, so you can try it out anywhere and pretty much under any stressful situation.

Here's how to do it -

Beginning by breathing through your nose. Slow down and deepen your inhales and exhales. Break each inhale and exhale down into three parts. On your inhale, your breath first goes to fill and expand your belly (part 1), then it goes to fill and expand your middle rib cage (part 2) and finally it goes to your upper chest (part 3). Remember, this all happens relatively quickly, during the course of one long inhale. Now, on your exhale, empty the breath in reverse order, out of your upper chest (part 1), your middle ribs (part 2) and your belly (party 3) and draw your belly in slightly at the end of your exhale to empty the breath completely. Then just keep repeating this pattern, focusing on really filling up your belly, ribs and chest with breath and elongating and deepening your breathing. After doing this for a few rounds maybe, just maybe, you'll realize you've calmed down. If nothing else, it will take your mind off the fact that you're about to sling shot into the air in a 36,000 pound steel contraption (and on that note. . . time for some more pranayama for me!!)

(And just for kicks here's a video of BKS Iyengar taking one crazy a** long breath!)

Happy breathing!

oxox roxy