Self Care for the Holidays: Part 1- The Breath.

Welcome to Part 1 of my Self Care for the Holidays series. I will be releasing different parts over the next week or two that are aimed to help you get through the holiday season. During the holiday season, most of us face some kind of anxiety or stress. Sometimes there is a reason behind it that we can see, sometimes it seems to come out of nowhere. Regardless if we can pinpoint the cause or not though- there are tips and tricks to help you get through more smoothly! 

In each part I will focus on one aspect of your life that you can work with to help prevent stress and anxiety as much as possible and know how to handle it if/when it does settle in. At the end of the series, I will compile everything into one PDF file so you can have it as an entire guide- but for now I am focusing on one section at a time so you can take a few days to work on the tools I give you before learning new techniques in the next part. 

As with all advice I give, take what serves you and leave what doesn’t. Above all, listen to your body. What works for me may not work for you and what may work for you may not work for your friend. I have taken a lot of time to research, think, and practice the things that will be mentioned in this series. There are many techniques but to keep it simple during a busier time in life, I have chosen the very best and most easy accessible to most.

I hope you enjoy the series and can find at least one thing to help you through this season. Wherever you may be during this season, whatever you may be facing- you are in my heart always. If you need any further guidance or have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me on any of my social media channels!

*Note: This is the year 2020 and Covid is still a big problem. It is encouraged that you stay home as much as possible (especially if sick), wear masks when you cannot, keep a 6 foot distance between yourself and others, and wash your hands. This guide is focusing on holiday gatherings and traditions that can be applied to any person and in any situation the person may choose to partake in and for future holidays in the years to come. Please don’t take any mention of gatherings as an encouragement to disregard any medical or public safety advice. 

Today, we are starting with:

The Breath

It all starts with the breath. In Yoga, we use and study pranayama. It is the act of working with the breath in different ways to manipulate our inner energy (our inner life force). It can be done seated, laying, and standing. Which makes it great for the holiday season and other busy times. You don’t have to be in your home or rolling out a mat somewhere. You can even do it with people around! So whenever you find yourself feeling overwhelmed this holiday season, remember to tap into your breath.

The Science

When we experience shifts in emotion, our breath changes too. We have three different types of breath: automatic, voluntary, and non voluntary. 

  • Automatic breath is your normal breath. It just happens, we don’t think about it. 
  • Voluntary breath happens when we intentionally adjust the breath to sing or speak. 
  • Involuntary breath occurs when we experience emotion. Anxious? Our breathing is usually rapid. Frustrated? It’s usually sharp. Happy? It’s light and airy. These breaths occur and reflect the emotional state going on inside. 

So, it makes sense that if we take control of our breath, we can then shape our internal emotional state.

The Vagus Nerve is the longest nerve in our body. It helps our brain communicate with our organs and greatly affects our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). Our PNS is responsible for the rest-and-digest feature of our bodies. By breathing deeper we engage our PNS through the Vagus Nerve, which in turn brings us to rest more quickly and lowers our stress response. 

The How

Belly Breath– This is my favorite one to use and I use it in pretty much every yoga class I lead, design, or attend. It is simple, but powerful. It engages our PNS and also redirects our focus.

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit or lay down and rest your hand on your belly. If you’d like you can also rest your hand on your chest along with the belly.
  2. Take a deep inhale in through your nose. Focus on your belly rising against your hand.
  3. Exhale. Focus on your belly contracting back in.
  4. Repeat as needed, around 5-10 cycles.

4-7-8 Breath- Just like the belly breath, this is simple and effective. It may take a few cycles of breath to get the hang of it, so I encourage you to try it for a few rounds. 

  1. Find a comfortable spot- you can lay, sit, or stand. 
  2. Inhale deeply, silently counting to 4.
  3. Hold and retain your breath while silently counting to 7 in your mind.
  4. Control your exhale slowly as you mentally count to 8.
  5. Repeat as needed. I would aim for 5 breath cycles for a beginner.

Alternate Nostril Breathing- This is a goody! This one may not be as easy to access as the others, but if you can sneak away to a quiet space (like a private restroom during dinner) or your bedroom, I really suggest giving this one a go! 

When using this breath we are balancing each side of the brain, bringing us to a more relaxed and balanced state. 

  1. Sit comfortably and focus on your natural breath.
  2. Seal your right nostril with your thumb, then inhale deeply through your left nostril. 
  3. Retain the breath and seal the left nostril with your pinky or ring finger.
  4. Release the thumb from the right nostril and exhale through the right nostril. 
  5. Keeping your left nostril sealed, inhale deeply through your right nostril.
  6. Retain the breath and seal the right nostril with your thumb.
  7. Release the pinky/ring finger from your left nostril.
  8. Repeat Steps 2-6 until you feel satisfied. I would aim for 5 cycles to start.

Resources to check out for more on the breath

Yoga with Adriene: Alternate Nostril Breathing:

Five Pranayama Techniques: 

5 Pranayama Techniques With the Power to Transform Your Practice—& Your Life

One thought on “Self Care for the Holidays: Part 1- The Breath.

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