Rest and Breath

rest-and-breatheThis year has been one where I have dealt with a number of health challenges. The biggest lesson I have learned out of this is I need a different way of caring for myself, to help prevent what I can, and to help me heal from what I cannot prevent.

Last spring I had cataract surgery on both eyes and a tooth extracted within a month. The tooth extraction followed two infections and a failed re-do root canal…and THREE rounds of antibiotics. And in the midst of all that, I was diagnosed with hypertension.

I finally realized the best thing I could do was lay down and rest each afternoon. I started by lying down and closing my eyes. Sometimes I’d listen to a podcast; sometimes I’d rest for about 30 minutes then read. Sometimes I’d read first, then take a short nap.

And one day while reading, I came across this quote:

“To rest is to heal.”
Lilias Folan
Lilias! Yoga: Your Guide to Enhancing Body, Mind, and Spirit in Midlife and Beyond

And that confirmed what I already suspected: I needed to rest to allow my body a chanced to heal. And not just from the surgeries, but from the antibiotics, from hypertension, from trying to find a medication that would work for me, and from the stresses of life.

So I’ve continued the practice of lying down in the afternoons and resting. I’d like to do it ever day, but reality steps in and my goal is for more days than not. I thought that meditating might be a good thing for me, but wasn’t sure how to do it. With time, I’m begun a practice of lying down, closing my eyes, and simply focusing on my breathing.

I’ll inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of 5 (which, as I relax, often becomes 6 or 7). I may do a few a first where I inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth, but switch to doing all through my nose.

After a few minutes, when I can feel my body relaxing, I will go back to breathing naturally, and just count my inhales and exhales. Inhale – one; exhale – two; inhale – three; exhale – four, etc. until I get to 10. Then I begin again.

If I lose count, I simply start over. No judgement if my mind wanders, I just go back to counting. I’m not trying to think about anything or solve a problem; in fact I’m trying to do the opposite: get my brain to shut down, so I can truly relax and rest. And heal.

Most interesting thing I’ve found is that after about 20-25 minutes, I “wake up”. While I sometimes do drift off for a few minutes, I am usually not asleep, although I am not fully awake either. Once I can feel I am “waking up”, my brain kicks back in, and it is time for me to get up.

This works quite well for me. A few weeks ago I was at my desk trying to get work completed so I could be finished for the day, but kept running into problems and distractions. I finally realized the best thing I could do was to lay down and breathe. Thirty minutes later, I’m back at my desk, refreshed, and able to focus and get things completed.

A great reminder of the importance to rest and breathe.

Proper breathing technique is important to, and easy to add into your day. You can read more at Every Breath You Take.

You may also want to try Balancing Breath to help you both calm down and re-energize.