3 Meditations From Gabby Bernstein To Help Regulate The Nervous System
As we face the uncertainty and fear of the global pandemic, it's more important now than ever to stay grounded. Whether that means emotionally connecting with friends and family, carving the time for some mindful movement, or spending a few minutes to simply breathe, finding the coping mechanism that works best for you can help you remain calm and clearheaded during this sensitive time.
According to No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Gabrielle Bernstein, it's imperative that we don't become "stuck" in a frozen state of trauma.
"We need tools that are going to regulate the nervous system and stimulate the vagus nerve so that we're not in a chronic state of fight, flight, or freeze," she tells me on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast.
One of those transformational tools, she says, is something that we already have inside of us: our breath. An avid supporter of the power of breathwork, Bernstein recognizes that our breath pattern has the ability to stimulate the vagus nerve and reduce our anxious thoughts.
Here are glimpses into three mini-meditations Bernstein guides me through as we discuss showing up for people in a time of crisis, how to exude positive energy, and how to use this time for spiritual growth:
A heart-hold meditation
As its namesake suggests, this meditation requires you to place one hand on your heart, and the other on your belly. The key here is to exhale longer than you inhale—that's how you tap into the benefits of this breathwork.
"When you have a longer breath, it stimulates the vagus nerve," Bernstein says. Whether you breathe in for two and out for four, or in for four and out for 10. Whatever you're capable of is excellent."
You're breathing into your heart and belly, taking a pause and feeling whatever you need to feel in that moment before you exhale, letting everything go.
A meditation to honor your anxiety.
This meditation is particularly applicable to this time of social distancing and quarantine, as we face some anxiety and hysteria. Rather than squashing those feelings down and trying to mask it with positive thoughts (which can do more harm than good, says Bernstein), try to embrace your anxiety with this quick meditation.
First, place your hand wherever that anxiety lives in your body (usually on your chest or on your gut, says Bernstein), then breathe deeply into the feeling. Once you're at the height of your breath, recognize where that anxiety may be in your body. Remain present in that moment, really honoring the feeling. On the exhale, release it and let it all go.
It sounds simple, but actually honoring the anxiety and the feelings it brings can do wonders in overcoming it. "Doing this a few times can change the experience of your anxiety," Bernstein notes.
A cord-cutting meditation
If you truly want to let go of negative energy, this cord-cutting meditation will do wonders. Take it from Bernstein, who used it personally after wanting to release her attachment to a negative message on social media.
"You might be feeling a cord attachment to news, political views, your own anger, or frustration if you're living in compromising circumstances," Bernstein explains. Whether it's a negative person, headline, or thought, this meditation works to "cut yourself off" from whatever negativity you may be experiencing.
As you close your eyes, place your palms facing upward and identify an area in your body where you may hold discomfort.
As you breathe, identify any person, story, or fearful thought that you feel attached to right now. Visualize the dark cord that's attaching you to that negative energy, whatever it looks like to you.
First, forgive yourself for being hooked, and honor that attachment. Then breathe in and welcome that intention to release the cord attachment. Place your hand on your heart, and breathe into your heart space.
Tune into this podcast to follow along with Bernstein and me in real time—so you can have the necessary tools to free yourself from this state of trauma. With all the uncertainty going on in the world, you still have the ability to control your own breath, purpose, and emotional freedom.
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.