Stop whatever you are doing (I know you are obviously about to read this post but our world has become quite savvy at multi-tasking.) Scan your body from the top of your head to your mouth and jaw to your shoulders, back, hips, legs, feet and toes. Where are you holding tension? I’m guessing many places that you are not even cognizant of but are now. As I was about to practice yoga this morning I scanned my body, something I always used to do but have forgotten about until today. My jaw was clenched, my shoulders were up, my legs were not even close to being relaxed and I was breathing very short/shallow breaths with my chest. Clearly, I need to start scanning my body more often. I had a very stressful night that left me with little sleep and my body does pay for that stress and insomnia. I was honestly very surprised to see that I was holding that much tension in almost every part of my body without even realizing it. I was sitting down and my legs were not even close to being in a relaxed state. It is so important to practice relaxation for everyone but especially those with chronic pain. When you hear the word relaxation you think of laying down watching a movie, sitting by the beach, or reading a book in the grass: all very relaxing activities. However, when I write practice relaxation I literally mean sitting quietly, scanning your body, and using deep belly breathing. Babies breathe with their bellies but as we get older we begin to breathe with our chests. Our bodies were not designed to breathe with our chests unless we are doing something that requires short breaths such as running or swimming. We get 80 percent more Oxygen when we breathe with our bellies. Practicing deep breathing is one of the hardest things for me to do in my management of chronic pain. Who wants to spend time focusing on how they breathe? It should just come natural, it should not be work! However, we must start practicing deep belly breaths. Anyone who has ever done biofeedback knows how different our bodies look on the inside when we breathe deeply with our bellies as opposed to with our chests. I have written about this before but I am writing it again as a reminder to myself and my readers. Today practice what I once learned as “Five for Five.” Five times in your day practice deep belly breathing. Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Breathe five seconds out, pushing your belly out (forget about a tight stomach and abs please) and then five seconds pulling the breath back into the body. Do this five times. Hence the term: “Five for Five.” This is not time consuming and all adds up to be under five minutes in the day. If we cannot contribute that amount of time in our day to breathing, we really need to change how we are living our lives.
This is one of the concepts yoga has taught me. Yes, yoga is the greatest body weight training exercise I know and does give you long/lean muscles and strengthens your core. Yes, yoga helps one to become more flexible and truly does stretch out tightened muscles. It is also one of the greatest tools there is for natural chronic pain relief. However, it truly is a way of life. Yoga has taught me how to breathe correctly. Yoga has taught me about my intuition and empowerment. There are more lessons I have learned through yoga and meditation than I ever learned in school. I am not a huge fan of technology but it does come with some great perks. If you own a computer or a smart phone or even belong to a library you can find a CD or DVD that teaches yoga sequences for chronic pain. I went to Pinterest this morning just to see what came up when I typed in “yoga and chronic pain” and was happily stunned at the amount of results. There are free videos all over the internet that demonstrate yoga poses and sequences for people with chronic pain. Ok, so two assignments today: “Five for Five breathing” and Google “yoga and chronic pain.”
This is not one of my more moving, interesting, emotional posts but it is very important. What is more important than breathing? All the things we take for granted are the things that we need to be focusing on like breathing, stretching, mindfulness, and yoga.