The weather in Washington has been rather erratic so far in 2014 - swinging from sun-filled 50 degree afternoons to frigid, snowy mornings. Such drastic fluctuations can leave even the most grounded among us feeling unsettled. While the weather (and so much of life!) remains beyond our control, we can tap into the power of our breath to help find a sense of stability.
Among the most basic breathing exercises in yoga is the three part breath (dirga pranayama). This straightforward practice is a wonderful way to bring your awareness to the present moment and calm your mind.
To begin, find a comfortable posture in which your spine is straight and your abdomen is not compressed. You can sit upright on the floor or in a straight-backed chair in which your feet comfortably reach the floor. Alternatively, you can lie on your back.
Close your eyes, and relax your face and body. Place one hand below your belly button and the other hand on your ribcage. Take a few deep breaths through your nose and notice what moves (or doesn't move) as you breathe in and out. After a few breaths, you may begin to feel your belly expand on your inhale, and soften as you exhale. If this does not occur naturally, focus on sending the air all the way down to the belly, filling it with air like a balloon. As this becomes comfortable, practice using your inhale to fill up your belly and ribcage. Finally, use your inhale to fill up your belly, ribcage, and chest.
Use your exhale to achieve the opposite effect: breathing out to deflate your chest, ribs, and belly. Continue to repeat this pattern: inhale - filling belly, ribs, and chest; and exhale - emptying chest, ribs, and belly. Breathe at your own pace, allowing the pattern to become seamless, for one to five minutes. If you continue to work with this exercise, you may be able to remove your hands and focus entirely on the breath, but you will reap the benefits either way.
Give it a try next time the weather shifts or you find yourself facing a challenging situation at work or home. Can you transform your experience of a frenetic day by finding a moment of stillness? Share your experience in the comments below.