Here at Pacific Naturopathic, our patients tell us there are too few hours in a day to attend to the heavy-duty business of fitness.
The question becomes, is there one single thing we can do to simultaneously improve our fitness on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels.
Breath is powerful. Breath is energy. Breathing exercises quiet the mind and bring us into a state of meditation. Breathing takes us into the center of our being, the source of all inner peace, wisdom and intuition.
Breathing practices have profound physical effects. Alternate-nostril breathing is a well-known yoga practice that balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic sides of the nervous system. It quiets the flight-or-fight response and helps us find our inner center.
I also recommend an even simpler breathing exercise. Take ten deep, conscious breaths, breathing in through the nose and allowing the breath to escape through the mouth. Then quietly relax and watch the breath. Do not make the slightest attempt to change the pattern of your breathing. Just observe the breath as if it were someone else’s breath.
At some point you’ll find yourself falling into a deeply relaxed state of consciousness.
By the tenth breath, the autonomic nervous system will be balanced, lowering blood pressure, optimizing the output of digestive enzymes, and stilling the sympathetic nervous system.
Adding movement to your breathing practice develops concentration and focus, releases energy blockages, and promotes a powerful flow of energy throughout the body.
Just about everyone is familiar with some kind of breath movement exercise – yoga, chi kung, and tai chi are well-known examples.
The breath movement exercises I favor are the Energization Exercises taught by the great yogi Paramahansa Yogananda.
Those of you who visit our Pacific Naturopathic offices may have noticed the Energization poster on our wall. Yogananda taught that the Energization Exercises can cure all manner of ills. In his words, “Ten minutes spent with this system will yield results far surpassing those of an hour’s exercise in the old way.”
In the Energization Exercises, we use our own joyful will power to draw energy into the body from an inexhaustible cosmic source. We then direct the flow of energy to specific parts of the body.
The sequence of 39 exercises includes inhaling and exhaling while tensing and relaxing individual muscles. These exercises charge every body cell with vital energy, restoring health to muscles, bones, and tissues. They increase circulation, bringing more blood to the brain to improve memory and brain power. Finally, they increase lymphatic flow, which enhances the body’s natural detoxification processes.
All in just 10-20 minutes a day!
In our area (Mountain View, CA), you can learn the Energization Exercises by signing up for the Meditation Two Class series at Ananda Sangha. A written booklet and CD are also available. And Swami Kriyananda explains the Energization Exercises HERE.