A Highly Effective 5-Minute Mood Balancing, Life Uplifting Breathing Technique!
There are so many ways in which our moods can change – we can easily have a bad hair day, or get out of bed on the wrong side. Or on the upside, feel excited by this or that event or new found passion! What’s not so easy is to keep an even or balanced mood, which to some might seem dull, but is actually quite desirable when one is feeling ‘exhausted’ from the ever changing influences around us, and can even be most pleasantly sublime.
Much of the time we don’t make the connection between what we are doing in our lives and how it makes us feel both in the short term and long term. The connection between sugar or chocolate and that instant burst of energy or even ‘happiness’ we get from it, followed later by feeling irritable or sluggish, is fairly well evident and easy to experience. Less obvious might be how the sounds we hear, either by choice or inadvertently – going to shops with the radio playing or listening to the latest hit in the car/on the bus going to work or school – can change the way we feel. The connection between what our mind and body absorbs or endures – food, sound, temperatures, wind, reading the news, digital technology and dealing with others – can affect our moods, make us feel up or down. And for some people no matter what they do they’ll continue feeling down and this is often the result of long term exposure to the things that wear us out, or perhaps a view of ourselves or the world which is unrealistic. This is often why we find ourselves feeling depressed. Sometimes is not easy at all to bounce out of these intense and persistent feelings of unhappiness. So many messages out there tell us to do whatever makes us ‘happy’ but generally when we go for that the happiness is fleeting or it actually takes us in the opposite direction to what we intended.
My personal experience as a yoga teacher battling episodes of depression has helped me to learn some valuable tools for well-being. In my journey towards health, I have found is that it’s entirely possible to be aloof from all these influences and to feel balanced and actually happy, free from depression and all kinds of other negative states of mind. There are certainly some common solutions that most people are aware of like getting enough sleep (if you can get to sleep in the first place!), eating a good plant-based diet (even tiny steps in this direction help), getting enough exercise (the gentler and more sustained the better, yoga asanas are wonderful) and avoiding, as much as possible, those things which obviously cause mood swings (drugs, alcohol, caffeine). But there are also some lesser known techniques that, had we learned these early in life, our lives, communities and society would be vastly different.
I would like to share a couple of yoga breathing and meditation techniques that have helped me immensely and that I personally find very powerful. Practice these techniques to experience an uplifting of your mood and your senses away from what brings you down or throws you around, and bring you towards more awareness of your true nature, regardless of the subjective perception of things which can so easily change, depending on our culture and even, as we’ve been discussing, our moods.
Firstly you can try abdominal breathing, then nadi shodhan pranayam, followed by Gauranga breathing. Regular practise of these techniques for even just a few minutes a day can really turn your life around in terms of how you perceive the world and how it influences you. Practise these breathing and meditation techniques every day or whenever you are feeling anxious, dull, overstimulated or just generally ‘unbalanced’.
Start by lying down on your back on the floor or sitting upright on the floor or on a chair. Make sure you are comfortable and won’t be disturbed by the phone, etc. Become aware, first of all, of just how your body feels, let go of your shoulders a little, relax your jaw and then become aware of your breath, watching it flow in and out naturally. Then, to deepen your breath, you can start by letting the out-breath be long. Gently contract the abdominal muscles at the end of your exhalation and then take a deep breath in. Try to reach that breath all the way down to your belly, to your lower lungs. You can place your hands on your belly if you like, feeling the middle finger tips touching on the out breath and separating on the in breath. Continue to breath in an out through the belly for a minute or so, lengthening your exhale gradually and also the inhale, but don’t force your breath. Let this breath develop naturally, with just a little effort to lengthen and deepen. You can also consciously draw your breath into your rib cage and up to the top of your lungs, feeling your chest, your sternum, rise and fall with the breath just like a wave. Relax your sternum, collar bones and shoulders. Many of us breathe most of the time into this upper area, and not the belly, so sometimes the muscles in this area can be overworked and tight. Notice how this breathing into the lower, middle and upper lungs makes you feel. There are a great many benefits for the body and the mind in practising abdominal breathing.
Nadi Shodan Pranayam (Alternate nostril breathing)
Continue abdominal breathing while you practise Nadi Shodan. If you are right handed, place the forefinger and middle finger of your right hand in the middle of your forehead. Breathe in through both nostrils and then close your right nostril with your thumb (resting on the side of the nostril) and breathe out through the open left nostril. Keep your fingers in place as you inhale again, the release the thumb and place your ring finger on the side of the left nostril, to close it off, and breathe out through the right nostril. Breathe in again through the right and out through the left, continue in this way alternating fingers as you hold your breath in. You are breathing in through one nostril and out through the other each time.
Continue for one minute or so and then breathe normally. Continue to breathe abdominally and slowly and try the next and final technique, Gauranga meditation.
Gauranga Breathing Meditation
“Gauranga” is one of many transcendental sound vibrations that has been handed down from bonafide meditation teacher to practitioner since time immemorial. “Gauranga” is not an ordinary sound vibration, and if you keep an open mind and heart to its possibilities, you will notice its effect, both in the short term and long term, to uplift your mood, change your perspective on life and experience peace and joy.
The sound Gauranga can be broken into four syllables Gau-ra- an-ga… but they flow beautifully together, from your vocals chords back into the ‘ether’ and back into your ears. Listen to the sound carefully, hold onto it, even drink it in through your ears. It is very sweet and full of life!
So on the in breath you can say the sound silently and on the out breath repeat it audibly. Do this with each breath for 8 or more breaths.
You can add in the sound Nitai… Nitai Gauranga, or Nitai Gaur. When you’ve finished, sit or lie there a little longer, resting, seeing how you feel, not judging its effectiveness so much as letting it have its effect, whatever that is going to be. Practise it a few times, regularly for a week or once a week, whatever works for you. Whatever comes naturally. And the effect will be there, subtle or strong, bringing you more into your own true nature as a person, balanced, peaceful, enlivened and happy.