Mind and Body
Mind and body practices that create positive mental health:
You’ve probably been hearing the phrase “mind and body” a lot over the past few years. What does this really mean? Take a moment to reflect on a time this last week when you were upset or feeling anxious. Thinking about that situation, the way you felt, try to remember what was happening to your body in that moment. What happened to your heart rate? Your breath? Did your body temperature change? Did you feel tightness in your body…where? Now, try to remember, what happened to your mind? What thoughts were going through your mind? How did they affect your emotions? Did they increase that difficult emotion or did they help reduce the emotion? This is a direct experience of how reactions to a situation affect both our mind and body. The more aware we of what is happening to our reactions in difficult or stressful situations, the more we are able to take action to be in control…instead of letting our mind and emotions take over.
In order to begin creating change in how our thoughts and emotions affect our body, we must first become aware. A wonderful way to begin practicing observing yourself, comes from Bo Forbes’ book “Yoga for Emotional Balance.” The technique is called, “Getting to Know Your Breath,” and takes about two minutes to practice. Take a comfortable seat on the floor or in a chair. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. With each exhale, letting go of tension and thoughts, allowing your attention to come to your breath. Next, allow your breath to return to its natural state…no need to intentionally inhale or exhale. Bring your awareness to your nostrils and spend a few moments observing where you feel your breath coming into the nose and where you feel it going out. Is there a temperature difference? Just notice…no need to change it or judge it. Then, bring your attention to your body. When you breathe in, where do you feel it? In your upper chest, your rib cage, your belly, your back…? Where do you feel the exhale? Take a few moments to notice what the breath does naturally in your body. Again, just observe…no need to change it or judge it. Finally, notice the inhale and exhale. Are they the same length or is one longer than the other? Just notice. Take three more deep breaths and slowly open your eyes.
Try this technique daily for a week and see if there is a pattern to your natural breath or if it changes. Notice how you feel before and after this exercise. BEGIN BEING AWARE OF YOURSELF IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. Remember, awareness is about being curious, not about judging…notice what happens to yourself so that you can try something different.
Twyla Gingrich is a LCSW and RYT-200, who works at Colorado West Mental Health in Eagle County and yoga instructor at Yoga Off Broadway. She strongly believes in the ability for everyone to create change in their lives with awareness, practice and intent. Her therapeutic background is in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Functional Family Therapy, and yogic techniques, such as mindfulness and relaxation.