Pranayama and meditation changed my life. You see, I'm what some people might call a neurotic, Type A personality. Combine that with a medical disorder that makes my blood pressure plummet under stress, and you don’t exactly have the recipe for success. Then I discovered these two hidden treasures—breath and positive thinking.
I was in high school when I began popping pills every four hours—blood pressure medication to raise my blood pressure. For years, I was tied to expensive insurance and my watch—trust me, I could tell when the meds left my system, and I didn’t want to wait that long. It wasn’t until I traded my daily running habit and occasional yoga practice for five or six-days a week yoga mat-time that I experienced something for the first time in a long time—hope.
Put simply, yoga helped me achieve balance. I thought I was only an obsessive-compulsive soul who lived largely in my head. Through an hour of daily asanas I began to see myself as the calm, centered being I truly am. I noticed my stress-levels drop and my blood pressure go up. After only a few months with my yoga routine, I stopped taking my medication entirely. That was nearly a decade ago.
Fast-forward to my late twenties. I developed a disease that left me with no lining in my bladder. I was left virtually immobile. It wasn’t until then that I began to practice pranayama and meditation more seriously—more because I didn’t have a choice than because of a true calling. Needless to say, my bladder healed and pranayama and mediation never left my practice. Fast-forward again to the delivery room.
My midwife gave me a series of cd’s called Hypnobabies. The idea is to self-hypnotize yourself through a natural birth. Of course, I listened to them right away. I was overjoyed to discover I’d already been practicing Hypnobabies. It was almost identical to my simple yogic mediations and breath.
So hopefully you’re asking yourself how do I get started? It’s simple. Breathe. Close your eyes and think of your lungs as pitchers. Inhale into the bottom of your lungs—the bottom of your pitcher. Then slowly draw your inhale up into your chest and then your throat. Take off one more bite of air and, just like a pitcher, ‘pour’ the air off the top first—out your throat, chest then use your belly muscles to finish your exhale. Keep your inhales and exhales the same length.
Once you begin to notice that you’re breath becomes deeper and less, shallow chest-breathing, start throwing in some simple visualizations.
First, visualize yourself as the person you want to be, rather than the person you think you are. Be positive. Then as you do your simple 3-part breath exercise, imagine breathing into the back of your heart and lungs. Send your breath—and positive energy—throughout your body with each inhale. With every exhale, let all stress and tension leak away.
This might sound too easy to be true. It’s not. People always want to pop the pill. Trust me, I’ve done that. Try giving your own body, mind and breath a chance first.