Late Summer: Preparing for Less Light

Chase the Blues Away

As the days are getting shorter, we are just beginning to experience less daylight. For many people, depression or melancholy can begin to set in. It’s important to manage these feelings from a psycho-emotional standpoint, perhaps with a therapist or meditation practice. Below, I will introduce a meditation exercise that is great for stress reduction, relaxation and is something you can even practice on the subway!

As it gets cooler, it is especially important to pay special attention to our respiratory health not only to prevent colds and flus, but also because according to TCM, our Lungs are associated with the emotion melancholy. Thus, focusing on breathing exercises is a great way to support this vital organ system during this time of year.

A useful Lung opening and stress reduction exercise is called “Coherent Breathing,” the strategy of consciously controlling your breathing rate to 5 breaths per minute. When done properly, it rapidly balances the autonomic nervous system. There is an alignment between the sympathetic and parasympathetic system and synchronization between the energy of the heart and the energy of the brain. Within a few weeks of regular practice, your heart rate variability (HRV) typically increases, which is considered to be an indicator of an increase in overall well-being, both physically and mentally. In the moment, this exercise is helpful for calming you down and bringing you to the present.

Here are the basic instructions:

1) With eyes open or closed, inhale to the count of 6, then exhale to the count of 6. You can use a noisy clock that ticks off the seconds or count silently to yourself.

2) Since the highest density of blood vessels are located in the base of the lungs, breath deeply into that region first. This is also known as belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing. Breathe slowly and rhythmically (think of a pendulum).

3) Allow the air to flow naturally. Guide but do not force the process.

4) Each time you exhale, relax your face, neck, shoulders, and the rest of your body.

You can do this on the subway, at your desk, or anywhere and for any amount of time to achieve the immediate physical and mental benefits.

A CD to help with pacing the breath is available titled “RESPIRE 1” by Stephen Elliott at http://www.coherence.com/ and more information is available in print: “The New Science of Breath” by Stephen Elliott with Dee Edmonson.

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