Opening to Self Compassion

wait in gratitude

“Self-compassion is a way of relating to the ever-changing landscape of who we are with kindness and acceptance—especially when we fail or feel inadequate … Self-compassion requires acknowledging that we share the human condition of imperfection.”   ~ Kristen Neff

How many of us learned about this when we were young? … How many of us are teaching our children about this? …

In today’s culture, especially in America, there is so much emphasis on self confidence, competing to win and striving for what you want in life. Yet, so much of it is out of our control.

We all know that mistakes happen and we don’t all win the prize at the end of the day.

How do you cope with these natural downturns and disappointments that are a part of all life? And how can we prepare ourselves for the inevitable lows of life?

Two wonderful women come to mind who have guided me along the way.

Sara Neff and Tara Brach have so much wisdom and guidance on how we can come to a place of self love and acceptance as adults.

“In order to flower, self-compassion depends on honest, direct contact with our own vulnerability. Compassion fully blossoms when we actively offer care to ourselves. To help people address feelings of insecurity and unworthiness, I often introduce mindfulness and compassion through a meditation I call the RAIN of Self-Compassion. The acronym RAIN, first coined about 20 years ago by Michele McDonald, is an easy-to-remember tool for practicing mindfulness. It has four steps:

Recognize what is going on;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with kindness;
Natural awareness, which comes from not identifying with the experience.

You can take your time and explore RAIN as a stand-alone meditation or move through the steps in a more abbreviated way whenever challenging feelings arise.”

~ Tara Brach

I have spent many years helping others find self acceptance and connection to their inner being. However, one of the greatest tools I use, is not in our thinking mind at all.

The simplest way to allow compassion to flow and for the heart to open, is to sit quietly and place one or both hands above your heart center.

Take a moment and try it now.

This gesture activates a soothing response that we mammals have. It replicates the feeling of comfort, safety and nourishment at our mother’s breast. As babies we felt it. As children we received comfort from a motherly hug. Yet, we don’t need someone else to bring about the same physical and emotional response.

You can give yourself this gift at any time.

You can also place a hand on your belly and let the breath settle into the center of your being. When we breathe using the diaphragm, we activate the relaxation response in the para sympathetic nervous system. Anxiety abates as the brain releases comforting hormones.

Connect to your breath and allow the nurturing energy to flow.

Namaste

Yoga off the Mat – Breathe Deeper

Enjoy this re-post and reminder to breathe more deeply to stay balanced and reduce stress in life

oooOOOooo

person rolling green gym mat

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

“Yoga is about changing our habits”. ~Rodney Yee

One of the habits that shows up for everyone as they begin their yoga practice, is how we shorten and even hold the breath when sensation increases.

Holding our breath is a defense mechanism of the human body. It prepares us to react to a threat. However, it increases the tension and stress in the body, rather than bringing it to a state of balance.

In yoga we learn to deepen the breath when sensation increases. We breathe through tension and discomfort and allow the energy to keep flowing, rather than getting stuck.

What a great lesson to bring to our lives!

Yoga increases sensitivity and awareness. It will reveal where the body is tight, where mobility is limited and where energy is blocked.

In yoga we learn to breathe, feel, and where possible let go. Ultimately this helps us make more skillful, conscious choices and allows us to create greater fulfillment in life.

And it all starts with the breath.

Inhalations bring in new energy and help us feel. Exhalations release negative energy and help us relax.

Breath deeply as you move through the highs and lows of life, and make the ride easier.

Namaste

Yoga off the Mat – Breath Deeper

person rolling green gym mat

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

“Yoga is about changing our habits”. ~Rodney Yee

One of the habits that shows up for everyone as they begin their yoga practice, is how we shorten and even hold the breath when sensation increases.

Holding our breath is a defense mechanism of the human body. It prepares us to react to a threat. However, it increases the tension and stress in the body, rather than bringing it to a state of balance.

In yoga we learn to deepen the breath when sensation increases. We breathe through tension and discomfort and allow the energy to keep flowing, rather than getting stuck.

What a great lesson to bring to our lives!

Yoga increases sensitivity and awareness. It will reveal where the body is tight, where mobility is limited and where energy is blocked.

In yoga we learn to breathe, feel, and where possible let go. Ultimately this helps us make more skillful, conscious choices and allows us to create greater fulfillment in life.

And it all starts with the breath.

Inhalations bring in new energy and help us feel. Exhalations release negative energy and help us relax.

Breath deeply as you move through the highs and lows of life, and make the ride easier.

Namaste

Haiku – shallow world

~

Take time for deep breaths
Leave the shallow world behind
Find your Middle Ground

~

Finding your Middle Ground is about taking time to pause and step away from this overactive, overstimulated and overwhelming age we live in.

The more we are caught up with the pull of our smartphones and media updates, the more difficult it is to step away.

Bringing awareness to our breathing is a simple way to connect to our bodies and allow our minds to disconnect and slow down.

Now is always a good time to breathe more deeply.

… and turn your phone off.

Let this be a positive step towards finding peace within.

 

 

Moving into Stillness

“Stillness is not the absence or negation of energy, life, or movement. Stillness is dynamic. It is unconflicted movement, life in harmony with itself, skill in action. It can be experienced whenever there is total, uninhibited, unconflicted participation in the moment you are in—when you are wholeheartedly present with whatever you are doing.”

~ Erich Schiffman – Yoga the Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness

I love the dynamism in this description of what stillness is. It becomes clear when yoga is a contemplative and spiritual practice, rather than a series of postures in an exercise class.

Stillness is not the same as exhaustion at the end of class when you lie in Savasana (corpse pose), perhaps filled with relief that it is over! Stillness is something that can be found throughout the practice and within each posture and transition along the way.

The best guide to see if you are moving towards stillness, is to notice if you are breathing steadily and fully throughout the practice.

Bringing awareness to our breath and the teacher’s breath reveals a lot. If the teacher can’t catch their breath to speak and guide you in a mindful way, then they aren’t moving into stillness either.

Breathe Well and Live Well

Breathe well and you will find your Middle Ground.

I love to breathe! Its what attracted me to yoga and keeps me passionate about how yoga and mindfulness can transform us.
Without breathing fully, a yoga practice becomes simply a workout. Rather than calming the mind and soothing the body it can have the opposite affect. This is not yoga.

The content here is to help bring awareness to how you breathe. Its the foundation for mindful breathing to alleviate stress, reduce anxiety and to live a full and healthy life.

breath awarenessIt begins with becoming aware of your breath:

  • STEP ONE – OBSERVING

Take a few moments to prepare yourself. Sit comfortably. Relax.

Begin by simply observing your breath. Get your own natural baseline.

Place one hand on your belly and the other above your heart.

Notice the rise and fall as you breathe in and out.

Let the wave of breath flow down to below your navel.

Feel that long slow wave of breath.

Now placing both hands just below the navel. Breathe as if your breath can reach your palms.

Notice how this fills the whole body with breath.

Let your belly expand as your lungs fill with air.

Soften your body so it can open to receive the air

Let the sensation of the breath move like waves. Find your own natural rhythm and pace.

Bring attention to your belly. Imagine as you inhale, your belly is like a balloon. With each inhale it fills up with air. Use your diaphragm to expand the belly outwards creating space for the air coming in.

On the exhale allow your belly to come back towards the spine.

This is full yoga breathing.

Notice – without any judgment – if this is easy for you or somewhat difficult.

  • STEP TWO – EQUAL LENGTH

Lightly bring equal length to your inhales and exhales. Silently count in your mind to ensure they are equal length.

Imagine waves coming to the shore ebbing and flowing.

Moving on to the next step in a natural smooth way

  • STEP THREE – SLOW DOWN

See if you can slow down and expand the length of both inhales and exhales. Making the waves longer let them flow more slowly.

Find the length that is expansive and opening. If you sense any struggle you have gone too far.

Don’t try, just step into this new space, accepting that what is good enough for your body is good enough for you.

In your mind count a number that feels long and strong for each exhale and inhale.

Let yourself be in the space at the end of the exhale without grasping on the intake.

man deep relaxed breathing

  • STEP FOUR – EXPAND EXHALE

When you are ready you might want to expand your exhale making it longer than your inhale. See if you can make it twice as long.

As you release the tension in your body, allow the tension of your mind to also release with each long exhale.

Let the waves of breath flow through you.

Let the prana and life force flow through your entire body.

Come back to your natural breath and notice how you feel after this experience of mindful expansive breathing.