Tag-Archive for » breath «

@ “It has proven useful” An LCSW Client

A LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) who attended 10 of my classes over 7 months wrote this in her Holiday Greetings Card: “Thank you for all that you have taught me about the breath in our “Classes” (1). I do use what I learned and it has proven useful. “ 

She had chronic insomnia, taking sleep medication for many years. She was in the habit of watching TV and reading a book to get tired and fall asleep. In spite of my repeated suggestions, she did not try the extended breathing practices to get sleep to be able to gradually cut down the medication (2). But when giving me the greeting card, she said she would request her doctor to reduce the dosage of her sleep medicine at her upcoming visit. Apparently her practicing the breathing at all the other times made enough impact on her anxieties to think of cutting down the medication.

(1) Level I – Focusing on breathing
(2) How to Enjoy Quality Sleep and Conquer Insomnia?

Related pages
Relief from Insomnia – Success stories

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@ “Thoughts are like dead leaves blowing in the wind” – Alfred’s progress

See (1) to know about Alfred. 

Practices

I had begun to worry about some aches and pains in my neck and hips and so I met with Elisa Cotroneo, a yoga teacher and somatic movement specialist. She was great and gave me some good advice on modifying my morning routine. I have begun to implement these changes and am already feeling an improvement. I have continued to develop the asana which I made up and am finding ever deeper relaxation from its practice.

Regarding your suggestion about extending the sitting meditation
It is interesting because I have begun to do that as a sort of natural progression.  When I find an asana (yoga posture) that makes me particularly tranquil, I will stop counting and continue the pose for some time.  I think these extended time frames are usually only 10-15 minutes now because that is about how long my total meditation time has increased.

Ideas

The Tree Metaphor
When meditating try to experience all those things a tree experiences- the touch of a breeze, sunshine, bird song, roots reaching into the earth, branches to the sky, the weight of being. Avoid all those human overlays such as anger, anticipation, and regret.

Thoughts  vs Ideas
Because we cannot just turn our minds off (and it would be dangerous if we did) I have begun to differentiate between thoughts and ideas as I meditate. My definition of a thought is that it is a fragment of an idea. Thoughts come and go, some good, some bad, like dead leaves blowing in the wind. An idea is a whole thing. It can stand alone like a large smooth rock on the ground. It can be looked at from different sides. The glue that holds an idea together is intuition. Here is an example of an idea – that the tranquility experienced from meditation is a baseline. To achieve tranquility is simply opening a door to a new space. The exploration of that space is what counts. When I meditate I concentrate on that idea (as well as my breath, my body sensations and my state of mindfulness). Keeping that idea in focus allows me to ward off distracting thoughts and achieve tranquility more efficiently.

Results
  • I took a long and stressful (busy traffic and bad weather) car trip helping my son move into a new apartment in Brooklyn. The rented van had extremely uncomfortable seats and we drove for over 7 hours. I used body awareness techniques I have learned from my asanas and ended the trip with no residual body stiffness.
  • I find myself striking up conversations with strangers or people who I hardly know more often.
  • Also, I think I am listening to other people better.

(1) Alfred

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Related posts: Alfred’s progress

* Calmed myself on a scary air flight

This is the first report of its kind. Emily Marynczak (1) shared with me how she used the segment mode of ‘focusing on breathing’ (2) to keep herself calm for about 2 hours, during a scary air flight.

“A year ago I was traveling back home from Ohio. The flight was scheduled to be about two hours long and the weather seemed clear. But shortly after take off, the pilot announced that there was some windy weather that we would have to contend with and he was going to keep the fasten seat belt sign on, until things calmed down. And then the bouncing begun. It felt like the plane would suddenly randomly drop down a few feet – taking everyone’s stomach with it. It felt like the plane was being tossed to and fro- and then up and down. We had non stop turbulence for the entire flight, it was terrifying. (I don’t like flying even on a good day!) It would have been truly horrific for me, had I not had the mental focus that came from ‘counting my breaths’ (2). When the plane first began to bounce, I had my book on my lap but with the first big bounce, my fear began to rise and I was unable to concentrate on my reading. I was starting to feel a bit of panic surface. It was clear that all the people around me were getting very afraid too. I could hear audible gasps with the bigger drops we felt. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to cope.

Then really from a place of desperation, I decided to try ‘counting my breaths’ (2). I needed to focus on something other than the scary thoughts about a plane crash.

I closed my book, closed my eyes and placed my hands comfortably on my lap. I started using the ‘segment mode’ of ‘counting breaths with my left hand (3).

As I finished, I was noticeably calmer. I realized that while I had given my mind the task of moving my fingers with each breath, my mind was occupied and therefore there was no time to worry about the plane falling from the sky. I was so focused on my breathing and my task of moving my fingers that I couldn’t even really take in the stress of the people around me.

I continued counting my breaths in this manner, for the duration of the flight. Every now and then, if the plane leveled off and the winds calmed, I would stop, open my eyes and take in my environment. I took great comfort from knowing that if the wind picked up, I would have a way to cope, something concrete to do that would really help. Sure enough, the winds would pick up and like my life depended on it, I would resume my breath awareness, always starting with my thumb going to my pinky at the top segment. Two hours later, we landed safely.

The passengers on the plane cheered loudly, as they released their stress. As we were getting off the plane, it was obvious that the other passengers were visibly stressed and shaken by this awful flight. But I had a unique sense of calm. I think my calm came from not only the meditative practice of concentrating on my breath and having an anchor for my thoughts with the movements of my fingers, but also from the peace that I got from just knowing that I had something to try, if I felt scared. I am forever indebted to C S (Suryanarayana Chennapragada) for sharing this powerful technique with me. I am forever empowered in my life, to cope with the inevitable stresses that will come my way.

This was the first time that I had really practiced the segment mode of counting breaths on my own.

In my work as a childbirth educator,  I practice this technique as I teach my students, once or twice a month. The version of the counting breaths technique that I had been using a lot, prior to the airplane ride, and still use several times a week, is the version of counting to three, over and over again without using the fingers at all, all in the mind (2).  I practice this technique whenever I want to go to sleep. Sometimes when I start off, I hear the voice of my inner cynic say- “this won’t help you fall asleep.” But I practice it any way and then in the morning I awake refreshed and happy. I know that counting my breaths to three really works. Incorporating the finger movements doesn’t work for me when my goal is to go to sleep. It’s too much effort to contract the muscles of my hand. But as I demonstrated in my airplane story, the extra energy of contracting my fingers in such a deliberate and focused way, was exactly what I needed to use up the extra energy created by the stress I was experiencing.

I am grateful to CS for teaching me these simple yet profound tools.

(1) Emily Marynczak, AAHCC and Bradley Method Certified Birth Instructor #(518) 478-0062. (AAHCC is for American Association for Husband Coached Childbirth)
(2) How can I focus on breathing?
(3) Segment mode’ of  counting breaths as she practiced: “I brought my thumb to the top segment of my pinky finger and with the next breath I moved my finger down to the middle segment of my pinky and with the third breath I moved my thumb to the lowest segment of my pinky finger. With the next breath, I was onto the ring finger and so on, until three segments of all ten fingers had been touched with their own breath.” Also read (2).

Related pages
Seminars and classes 

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* Walking on gold coins, eyes closed

‘Focusing on breathing’ is a technique that is easy to understand and practice.It reduces and prevents stress without demanding time, posture, teacher or money. Many people under stress  admit it may relieve some of their problems. But they are unwilling to try it, even at bed time which is the first step I suggest on this path. I believe it shows that they are not yet ready to come out of their stress and its consequences. This idea is brought out in the following story from Indian mythology.

+++
Once upon a time, there lived a great devotee of the God named Shiva. He was always chanting the name of God Shiva. But he was always poor, unable to support his large family. He would visit the nearby village every day, asking for donation of food from the housewives and return to his family to feed them.

One day, God Shiva’s wife, being aware of this devotee’s condition, asked Shiva why HE was not helping HIS great devotee. Shiva replied that the devotee’s time to come out of his suffering had not yet come. But Shiva’s wife, felt a lot of compassion for the devotee and insisted that Shiva must do something immediately, to help that poor devotee.

To pacify his wife, that night, Shiva sprayed gold coins all along the road on which the devotee walked every day to the village.

In the morning, Shiva and his wife watched from the heaven, to see what the devotee would do. When the  the devotee was about to step on that road, he got a brilliant idea. He thought “I have been walking on this road every day, for so many years. I know all its turns and pot holes. Let me challenge myself today, by walking on this road with my eyes closed.”. Then he closed his eyes and walked confidently, stepping on the gold coins lying all along the road. At the end of the road, he opened his eyes and congratulated himself for his great achievement!

Shiva told his wife “I told you that he is not yet ready to come out of his suffering!”
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I tell this gold coin story in the introduction part of my seminars. At the end the story I say that every breath that enters and exits our bodies is like a gold coin lying on our path. Noticing a breath is like picking up a gold coin for free, because every time we focus on a breath, we prevent stress and also reduce our stress, for sure, though only a tiny bit (1). In all our non-sleeping moments, we have this ‘golden’ opportunity to prevent and reduce stress (2). Stress being the root cause of many mind and body problems, this practice has immense potential to help us get relieved of many problems (3). Participants appreciate this powerful message.

(1) ‘It is only a little’ – My Article
(2) Stress – Its causes and effects
(3) Helping mind and body

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* Seminar at East Greenbush library

The fifth introductory seminar at the East Greenbush community library was on Jan 30, 2012, 7  to 8.30 pm. 28 persons registered and 16 turned up.

Scanned images of the completed feedback forms.

Their feedback is summarized below.

The seminar was …

  • Excellent –    13
  • Very Good – 3
  • Good –             –
  • Not useful –   –

I will use this technique to relieve my (concern)

  • Stress – 3
  • Stress, Insomnia
  • Stress/ Stiffness of muscles
  • Stress, Also would like to use during child birth
  • Stress, Tension
  • Stress, Lack of focus
  • Stress  & Anxiety
  • Stress & Anxiety throughout the day
  • Tension
  • Sleep, Anxiety, Mind wandering
  • Anxiousness/ Anxiety – 2
  • Anxiety, Insomnia
  • Help me sleep &  Relax
  • To sleep

Comments/ Suggestions (if any)

  • Very relaxing, I hope I can continue to do this
  • Very useful & Relaxing
  • Very relaxing.
  • Very interesting
  • CS was very engaging and thorough. I like how he framed the technique by the different narratives ~ Very interesting! I really enjoyed the session. Thank you.
  • CS was an amazing and informative instructor. I found my breath. Thank you so very much.
  • Presenter was very helpful.
  • Very good presentation
  • I thought it was very good. I enjoyed learning this.
  • Thank you. Very useful technique.
  • I hope there will be additional seminars.
  • Enjoyed it immensely, Hope to come to more of this kind of class
  • It would be nice to have regular follow up on this at the library.
  • Wonderful – I needed this & hope to use it.
  • A wonderful experience. I will use it personally and professionally.
  • I will use it in my therapy practice

When I visited the library two days later, one of the librarians said that at the end of this seminar on Jan 30th, several participants in the seminar voluntarily told her that they liked the seminar very  much.

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* Useful for women in labor

I offered a complementary seminar for two couples taking lessons from Emily Marynczak, a childbirth educator (1). Her feedback after the seminar –

“Thank you very very much for your session last night. I personally have benefited so much form your techniques and I know that my clients have too. I will continue to discuss how well your techniques apply to labor. The concept of using the fingers to ‘anchor the mind’ is very promising for use in labor. Your “911″ remedy (2) for a stubbed toe is something that I teach for labor just with a different name. I also teach women to vocalize their exhalations- to release the power of the contraction- we practice open loud powerful wailing sounds to release the breath and any fears. A kind of birth song- but ultimately just a simple breath technique. I think that perhaps counting breaths, 1,2 3, 1, 2, 3 out loud may also be helpful to some women in labor. I am so enthralled with the simplicity and freedom inherent in your approach- It is freedom and simplicity that I strive to teach in my birth education work.

Subsequent comment:
I continue to refer my clients to your web site. We often practice together in my classes. I too look forward to a time when these techniques are main stream.”

(1) Emily Marynczak, AAHCC and Bradley Method Certified Birth Instructor #(518) 478-0062. (AAHCC is for American Association for Husband Coached Childbirth)
(2) 911 mode of ‘focusing on breathing’

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