by Jennifer Parmelee, yoga teacher and part of the Live Well / Stay Well Program at Tournesol Wellness
When I think of how to keep calm I am reminded that calmness depends on how quick or slow my breath is. If I am unaware of my breath, if I am holding it, then I know I am not calm. Calmness is directly connected with the fullness of each breath in and out of our bodies. We must first observe our breath. Can we become aware of what exactly is happening with our breath? Are we inhaling and then retaining it? Are we exhaling it all out while sipping oxygen in? Once we are aware of our pattern, then we must find balance to restore the natural rhythm of our inhale and exhale.
The easiest way to do this is to create a breath ratio. This mental diversion can keep us calm, especially in crowded places. It calms the nervous system and allows us to think rationally. A basic ratio for stillness is 1:1:1. Inhale for 1 second, hold the breath for 1 second, and exhale the breath for 1 second. You can do this for as many rounds as you like until you feel more comfortable. If you feel you need a deeper relaxation then use the ratio, 2:4:6. Inhale for 2 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and exhale for 6 seconds. As you get comfortable with taking control of your breath, you can change the ratio to 4:6:8. These ratio skills can be done at any time.
Another great way to relax is to do alternate nostril breathing. This is also known as Nadi Sodhana Pranayama. Hold your left hand with the thumb and forefinger to touch. This helps to keep the body grounded. Then take your right hand and make a fist. Let only the thumb, pinky, and ring finger gently move away from the fist. Turn the right hand towards the face where you will use the thumb to block the right nostril and the ring finger to block the left nostril. Inhale through both nostrils, hold and block the right nostril, and then exhale all of the air out through the left side, keeping the right nostril blocked. Inhale through the left side, then hold and block both nostrils for 3-4 seconds. Exhale all of the air out through the right side, keeping the left nostril blocked. Inhale through the right side. Hold and block both nostrils again for 3-4 seconds, and then exhale all the air out the left side. Continue to alternate the breath. As you inhale, breathe in calmness and light. As you pause, feel that sensation move to every cell of your being. As you exhale, release all anxiety and fear out of your being. You can also add the breath ratios listed above.
Lastly, try visualizing your breath having a calm, color attached to it. Inhale your breath for as many seconds as you can. Pause and feel this color radiate within. Exhale the same amount of seconds. Repeat as necessary.
Jennifer Parmelee is the author of Petal by Petal – The Flowering Self: A Healing Chakra Journey, and created the Yoga CD, Sit Within Yourself: A Healing Chakra Guided Meditation. She teaches ISHTA Yoga in New York City, while facilitating yoga teacher trainings and providing pre-natal, restorative, and chakra-gemstone healing workshops nationally.