The Art and Science of Breath: Unlocking Wellness Through Conscious Breathing

The Art and Science of Breath: Unlocking Wellness Through Conscious Breathing
The Art and Science of Breath: Unlocking Wellness Through Conscious Breathing
Respiration is indeed the cornerstone of life, the rhythmic dance that sustains all bodily functions. Without it, the intricate machinery of our body grinds to a halt. The air we breathe is not merely oxygen; it's the life force that fuels our energy production. Breath, in essence, is life.
Oxygen, the quintessential nutrient, takes center stage in this symphony of existence. Yet, it's disheartening that many breathe shallowly, utilizing only a fraction of their lung capacity. The untapped potential lies in the conscious act of breathing, a practice that intertwines health, awareness, and a profound connection between body and mind.
Swami Rama, in his enlightening book "Path of Fire and Light," encapsulates the holistic benefits of conscious breathing: "Control of the breath leads to health, an increase in strength and energy, good complexion, increased vitality, the growth of knowledge, and the extension of the life span." Small adjustments in our daily ritual of breathing, performed over 20,000 times a day, can usher in a cascade of positive effects.


The Breathing Landscape: A Self-Check

To understand your breathing pattern, place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Inhale deeply several times and observe which hand moves the most. Most people, inadvertently, use chest muscles for breathing, forgetting the natural diaphragmatic breath they were born with.
Infants and small children naturally engage their diaphragms for breathing. Unfortunately, many of us transition to chest breathing as we grow, a less efficient method that can lead to tension and anxiety. The reciprocal relationship between breath and mind makes chest breathing synonymous with the fight or flight response.
Moreover, chest breathing can influence body image perceptions. Diaphragmatic breathing, which naturally expands the abdomen, might not align with societal expectations. Tensions build, limiting diaphragmatic mobility and fostering reliance on chest breathing. This can result in chronic muscle tension in the chest and abdomen.

Efficiency in Breathing: Diaphragmatic vs. Chest

Efficient breathing is not just about oxygen exchange; it's a dance that the heart and lungs choreograph. Diaphragmatic breathing, especially in the upright position, is remarkably efficient. It aids in thorough blood/gas mixing, reducing the workload on the cardiovascular system.
Research suggests that diaphragmatic breathing, by increasing suction pressure in the thoracic cavity, enhances venous return of blood, reducing the load on the heart and improving circulatory function. Conditions like high blood pressure of unknown origin respond favorably to a daily regimen of diaphragmatic breathing.

Conscious Breath: A Gateway to Self-Awareness

Turning your breath into a conscious habit awakens a heightened awareness of your body's signals. It fosters better feedback loops for understanding dietary needs, the benefits of physical activity, and an increased awareness of emotional states and inner self-talk.

Why Breathwork Matters: 

Stress Reduction: In a world characterized by constant stressors, breathwork provides a natural and accessible way to activate the body's relaxation response, mitigating the harmful effects of chronic stress.
Improved Mental Clarity: Conscious breathing techniques can enhance focus, concentration, and cognitive function. This makes breathwork a valuable practice for those seeking mental clarity and heightened awareness.
Emotional Regulation: The breath serves as a bridge between the body and the mind. By mindfully regulating your breath, you can influence emotional states, promoting calmness, and reducing feelings of anxiety or agitation.
Enhanced Physical Performance: Athletes and fitness enthusiasts incorporate breathwork to optimize performance, increase endurance, and promote efficient recovery.
Immune System Support: Deep, diaphragmatic breathing has been linked to improvements in immune function, bolstering the body's ability to ward off illness.

Here are exercises to bring awareness to your breath and body:

Diaphragmatic Breathing (Deep Belly Breaths):
   - Find a comfortable seated position.
   - Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to expand.
   - Exhale fully through your mouth, contracting your abdominal muscles.
   - Repeat for several cycles.
Box Breathing (Square Breathing):
   - Inhale for a count of four.
   - Hold the breath for a count of four.
   - Exhale for a count of four.
   - Pause for a count of four.
   - Repeat for several rounds.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana):
   - Sit comfortably with your spine straight.
   - Use your right thumb to close your right nostril.
   - Inhale through your left nostril.
   - Close your left nostril with your right ring finger.
   - Exhale through your right nostril.
   - Inhale through your right nostril.
   - Close your right nostril.
   - Exhale through your left nostril.
   - Repeat for several cycles.
Mindful Breathing:
   - Find a quiet space to sit or lie down.
   - Focus your attention on the sensation of your breath.
   - Observe the natural rhythm of your breath without attempting to control it.
   - If your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to your breath.
- Lie on your back, placing hands on your abdomen.
- Inhale slowly through your nose, expanding the belly.
- Exhale through your mouth, pulling the navel in and up.
- Feel your inner organs getting a massage, promoting peristalsis and oxygen exchange.
As you become comfortable with these exercises, aim for 200 conscious breaths a day, gradually increasing to 500 or even 1,000. The more you integrate conscious breathing into your daily routine, the more it becomes an unconscious, natural act.
 This is a simple breath exercise with an essential oil which Dr. Joleene Anderson shares with us from our FREE TRANSCEND & TRANSFORM 28 Days to Renew, Revitalize, and Realign Journey

In conclusion, the breath is a silent orchestrator of well-being. It guides us to a space where physical, mental, and emotional harmony converge. So, step into the world of conscious breath, explore its various forms, and let the rhythmic cadence of your breath guide you to a state of profound well-being.

Suggested Reading:
- "Conscious Breathing" by Gay Hendricks, Ph.D.
- "Science of Breath" by Swami Rama, Rudolph Ballentine, M.D., and Alan Hymes, M.D.

The Art of Essential Oil Diffusing

The Art of Essential Oil Diffusing
Discover the wonders of essential oil diffusing in our latest blog post. Essential oils are concentrated extracts from plants that offer a range of therapeutic benefits. Diffusing these oils allows their aromatic compounds to be inhaled, promoting physical and mental wellness. There are different types of diffusers available, from ultrasonic diffusers that disperse a fine mist of water and oils to nebulizing diffusers that directly release pure essential oil into the air. The benefits of diffusing go beyond pleasant scents, with potential advantages such as stress reduction, improved sleep, enhanced focus and concentration, respiratory support, and mood elevation. To make the most of diffusing, choose high-quality oils, personalize your blend, dilute mindfully, consider your environment, and maintain your diffuser regularly. Let the symphony of scents guide you on a journey of relaxation, focus, and rejuvenation.

Self-Love: Selfish or Wise?

Self-Love: Selfish or Wise?
What do you think of when you hear the word “self-love?”

Do you think of someone who is selfish, self-centered or egotistical? 

Or do you imagine someone who is healthy, vibrant, wise? 

“Often, we are reluctant to promote self-love mostly because we confuse it with selfishness. Since we are humans, we ought to have a healthy love for ourselves; it is from this fount that love flows out to others.”   ~ Mason Olds

As I continue to travel around our sun, I have come to realize that love truly does emanate from within.  When we feel love for another or a situation or a place, that love is a reflection of the love we carry within.  We have opened to it, releasing it thus allowing for its reflection.  

Unfortunately, we have attached conditions to love:

if you do ____________then you will receive love.  

if you have __________ then you will be loved by others.  

Our educational system trains us that when we do something well we will be recognized and rewarded. If we don’t do well, we are less than.  

Our society idolizes singers, actors, politicians who “do important things” and are therefore “loved.”  What you do seems to determine if you are worthy of love.

Is this true?

What is love? 

The image of the old cartoon Love is… comes to mind. 

Love is…

… being tucked in with a kiss every night.

… when actions speak louder than words.

.. happily doing the chores so she can study at evening class. 

… making your own sunshine.

These images and notes regarding the little things and times when we feel love are so simple and so deep.  Love doesn’t take an earthquake, just a simple gaze, thought or action freely given from an open heart.  

How do we keep our hearts open? 

Start with the practicing the little things, such as:

  • Find the joy in simply opening your eyes in the morning.  
  • Relax around the driver in front of you – whatever they do… leaving their blinker on, going too slow.  
  • Embrace the weather – sun, rain, wind or snow.  

As we realize these “things” are not ours to control we can mindfully create a practice and training to remain open with all the little things right in front of us each day. As we practice on the little things we create a natural set point of being open.  Therefore, this is where we naturally feel into when the big things occur. 

The two-year anniversary of my son’s death at the hands of a drunk driver is approaching. Because I have made it my practice to relax and learn to love what is, I can honestly share that throughout processing this ordeal and the subsequent court case,  I have remained open.  Open to the love I hold within for my beloved son.  Open to accepting our new reality.  Open to the capricious court proceedings.  Open to being held by others.  

When anger and injustice wanted to rear their heads, I could feel that they could close my heart.  If knew if I closed my heart I would be disconnected from the beauty, love and joy of what was, what is and what will be. This love comes from within me and if I shut it off, I would only be harming me. I was hurt enough, so I choose to remain open and in the flow of love. 

I am the source of my love. The love I give and the love I receive. 

I have learned that grief is another facet of love.  The deeper you love someone or something, the deeper you will grieve.  And both are beautiful and necessary. 

Do you desire to feel love?  

Start within, with the little things.  Build your practice to create your setpoint of an open heart and you will have the skills to navigate your experiences remaining open.  

Love comes from within and is reflected back to you by the people and events around you. Polish your inner mirror and reflect the beauty, love and joy you hold within.  

I share tools for this practice to guide you towards the inner set point of love you desire here

It does help to have tools and a community in which you can simply show up as you are – without judgment and are seen, heard and held yet not fixed. The fixing of you is only for you, your work, inner work.  

As you learn to love yourself unconditionally, you will see the world around you with an open heart and deeply know that self-love is true love. 


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What is Your Most Intimate Skin Care Product?

What is Your Most Intimate Skin Care Product?
Here is a question I best most of you have never pondered…

What is your most intimate skin care product?

Keep in mind, our skin absorbs much that comes into contact.  Test this out by having someone rub a clove a garlic on the bottom of your foot.  See how long it takes until you taste that garlic in your mouth?
So what has the most contact with our skin for the longest amount of time?
The answer….
laundry soap
Your laundry detergent.
Think about it. 
Most of the day you are in your clothing which is in contact with your skin.  At night no matter what you wear to bed, your sheets are touching you all night long.  Short of the time we are in the shower, we are in contact with our laundry detergent almost all day long.
When you purchase your laundry detergent did you take this concept into account?
Or do you simple purchase something inexpensive for which you have a coupon?  
Perhaps now you might see why the organic, environmentally safe detergents may be something to bring into your home.
Did you ever wonder why they make special laundry detergents just for babies?

 baby laundry
If your everyday laundry detergent isn’t safe for a baby, perhaps it isn’t safe for you.
I did an interesting experiment a few years ago with laundry detergents.  I had three 8-ounce glass jars which I filled with water and put into each ½ tsp of Tide, Bio clean and Norwex UPP powders.  I shook them up to see how much solid matter was left behind with each.  Often cheap brand of detergents contains fillers whose sole job is to take up space and beat your clothing clean.  It also breaks down your fabrics reducing the life of your garments.  This was an eye-opening experiment.
But wait there’s more.
I left these jars sit for at least a year.  Honestly I had saved them for show and tell and then they were forgotten in a corner.  When I went to empty the jars another story was told.  The jar with the Tide had a cloudy film covering the inside.  This film was stubborn and would not be removed with scrubbing, but took many long soaks with vinegar and more to finally be removed.
Think about it, this detergent is not only beating your wash with filler, but coating it in a film.  What is in this film?  This film is then in constant contact with your flesh.  Many of these films hold synthetic fragrances.  This is evidenced by those individuals whose detergent scents leap out and greet you before they do.  Go in a public place, they are there.  Sadly, often it is friends and family members too.  If you cannot think of an individual whose detergent greets you, it just may be you.
Want to find a synthetic free laundry detergent which won’t beat your wash, offend your neighbors and is safe for your skin and that of a baby?
You may find ratings and more at the environmental working group or you may try my favorite: Young Living Thieves Laundry Soap
When asked what does it smell like? my answer – it doesn’t.  It simply leaves your clothing clean and the only material in contact with your flesh is the material on the label of the garment.  (now what that material is, is another issue)

The small things we do regularly truly do make a difference over time.  Think about your small actions. 

What laundry detergent are you using?  Let alone fabric softeners or dryer sheets? (again an issue for another time, but neither of these are necessary and both are simply adding a coating to your fabrics and machines)

How are your choices affecting you and your family? 
Do they support or harm your well-being?
Perhaps making a change in your laundry detergent can be a small step towards your best health.

New Year Ritual: Renewal Through Prayer Flags

New Year Ritual: Renewal Through Prayer Flags

Since moving to Flagstaff, AZ, I have connected with people who follow the moon cycles, honor the Pagan rituals from which many religions started and simply connect more with the earth and nature. Nature has always held a special place in my soul. Growing this connection has truly fed my soul in countless ways.  
Several years ago I followed the moon ritual from the Wild Women Project and the ritual at year’s end really made an impact on me.  When I worked through the above process and came to step three, I had such a creative download. I strongly felt the call to create prayer flags for sharing my dreams and visions in the new year. This would definitely get my messages, dreams and visions out to the world on the winds. 
I do see prayer flags hanging from homes around my neighborhood and they abound at the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park in Sedona where people not only hang purchased flags but also ones of their own creation – what a profound concept!  Creating your own prayer flags.
I started with a small pile of articles of clothing which were my favorites but had holes in unsightly places. I was unable to part with them, yet they were unwearable. I choose to use these clothes to make my prayer flags and repurpose something special to me into something else special. If I cut from some of the edges, there would already be a finished seam to string the rope through for hanging, bonus!
I came across information on prayer flags offering the colors and their meanings as well as the facts about when you remove prayer flags they are traditionally burned. Granted my clothing didn’t meet the traditional colors fully, but somewhere I read that there are typically 10 flags, so I asked my family if they wanted to make a few flags too and we could hang all our visions together. With this in mind, my daughter brought a few articles of clothing to add some of the missing colors. I got out the permanent markers and we all created our visions and intentions for 2019.
Our aim was to have them completed and to hang them on New Year’s Day.  
We had just created a family ritual! I shared this vision with a friend who jumped on board too, loving the idea. 
She even added some good thoughts for the ritual, that we could remove the old flags on the winter solstice and ceremonially burn them and then use that time when we start to move into more light to create our new flags which will be hung on New Year’s Day.  

Over the years we have experimented with different media for words and images on flags.  Media used include:
  • permanent markers
  • acrylic paints
  • stitching with colorful threads
  • regular markers – these fade away as the year passes fully releasing your prayer 
The first year I shared the creation of ten flags with my family, now I have no problem filling all ten with my own intentions for the coming year. Another great lesson learned is to release perfection of your creation and focus on the energy you give to your intention.  As these flags will be subjected the elements all year long and eventually burned, allow yourself to simply take action without judgement of the results while expressing your intention.   Errors or mistakes are simply judgement – there is always something learned from the action.  I truly felt this when stitching my images as the threads would get out of hand and I had to simply trust and let go.

Our new prayer flag ritual —which I encourage you to try, adapting it to your own ideas—has manifested as follows: 
  • Save old clothing or sheets to create flags, or purchase fabric scraps. You may honor a lost loved one by using items of theirs.
  • December 21st - Winter Solstice: Remove and burn past flags. Ceremonially review your past years intentions and how they unfolded (or not) and release them to the fire. 
  • Feel into your intents or wishes for the New Year and craft your new flags.
  • January 1st:New Year’s Day or the first New moon of the year: Hang your new flags and spread your message all year long on the winds. 
The winter solstice is just around the corner.  If you don't have flags for this current year you may always write your intents on paper and release them in a ceremony during the solstice and create the space to feel envision your intentions for the coming year. 

Here I will share my poem for 2019, which came out of this process:
Honor the whole, the broken and create anew
All is Beauty
All is Nature
All is Creation
All is You
As the new year approach us, I encourage you to develop your own personal rituals for intention-setting. 

Subscribe if you would like to hear more about my family’s rituals!

Cyclical Living: Connecting with the Wheel of the Year

Cyclical Living: Connecting with the Wheel of the Year
I wrote a note to myself in the front of my yearly planner

When in doubt…. 
Head into nature
For it is in nature where I feel the most grounded, connected, in body. 

Earth is truly our mother, and she holds us however we are—no judgment, just as we are. We are a part of nature, not her controller but a small cog in the wheel. The wheel being the cycles: day/night, spring/summer/autumn/winter, new moon/full moon, existence/life/death/rebirth, tidal ebb and flow, inbreath/outbreath and so on.  

Cycles and circles abound—just look at sacred geometry. These geometric patterns exist all around us, creating the fundamental structure and templates of life in the universe. The circle, which is never-ending, represents the cycles of life, the eternal constant, cycles of change, unity, perfection, inclusivity, boundaries. The circle may then be replicated to create other shapes such as the seed of life or the flower of life.

Sacred Geometry is often referred to as the “architecture of the universe”, it is found throughout the natural world. It is all around us and is one of the very few subjects that satisfy both the left brain and right brain hemispheres simultaneously. It satisfies the left brain's desire for logical, sequential and objective data. It also satisfies the right brain's desire for random, intuitive and subjective data.

Living Within Nature’s Cycles

Ancient peoples honored nature and lived within her cycles. Many cultures utilize either the Wheel of the Year or the Medicine Wheel.  

The Wheel of the Year honors the Solstices and the Equinoxes on the vertical and horizontal axis and then there are the cross-quarter days of celebration with different names in different cultures. Each of these have held a ceremony or festival commonly known as: 

  • Winter Solstice (Yule)
  • Imbolc (Candlemas)
  • Spring Equinox (Ostara)
  • Beltane (May Eve)
  • Summer Solstice (Litha)
  • Lughnasadh (Lammas)
  • Autumn Equinox (Mabon)
  • Samhain (Halloween)
Each of these festivals are linked to a specific phase or cycle of the sun or the moon.  Many of these have now become set dates on the calendar no longer tied to the cycles, such as Christmas and Halloween. Thus, they have been disconnected from the lunar flow and the greater world around us.  

The Medicine wheel embodies the Four Directions, as well as Father Sky, Mother Earth, and Spirit Tree—all of which symbolize dimensions of health and the cycles of life. It signifies all the knowledge of the universe and is divided into four colors representing the four directions as well as other aspects or cycles such as:
  • Stages of life: birth, youth, adult (or elder), death
  • Seasons of the year: spring, summer, winter, fall
  • Aspects of life: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical
  • Elements of nature: fire, air, water, and earth
The medicine wheel is used for the purposes of prayer, meditation, and deepening our understanding of our relationships to the timeless aspects of creation. Acknowledging that we are more than just a body, but also mind, spirit, and emotions opens us up to greater understanding, connection, and healing for ourselves and our environment. 

Our language connected us to the cycles. Fortnight used to be a commonly used word meaning fourteen days or two weeks, which is the timeframe between full and new moons or quarter and third quarter moons. 

A way of tracking time simply by looking up into the sky. 

A way of cyclical living.  

Linear and Cyclical Calendars

As man moved away from being a part of nature to claiming dominion over her linear living - linear thinking became the norm. Some will link this to the invention and common use of electricity as described in Clark Stand’s Waking Up to the Dark. The ability to have light at any time broke our deep connection to the light of the sun and the moon shifting between day and night and the seasons.  

We now commonly live by the Gregorian calendar, which makes the month and day of the week most vital as opposed to the season and the moon cycle. This creates more of a linear mindset. Linear thinking tends to be dualistic:
Right – wrong  
Black – white
Life – death

A linear life fits upon a timeline with a one-way flow like a checklist moving through 
  - birth  - childhood – schooling – work life – family – children – retirement – death

As a society, we create the “ideal” flow of life and then judge ourselves on our placement on that line.  
What makes this one timeline right or better-than? 

How many individuals truly follow the socially accepted timeline flow? 

How much do we judge ourselves when we do or do not meet the check marks on that timeline?  

Use of the linear calendar moves the festivals from the wheel of the year to holiday dates on the calendar, losing their connection to the cycles of the sun and moon. I feel this loses some of the intent behind the ceremony/celebration and disconnects us from our environment.  

Linear living implies that things are one-and-done. Is this true? 

Life is not guaranteed to flow in one direction, but it will cycle. While you might be starting a new job, you may also be releasing a relationship and be in the middle of a creative project. Thus, various parts of life are taking place at different points in the cycle or flow.  

We’re inherently cyclical beings, our energy shifts, and our wants and needs are always going to change — if they weren’t changing, you’d be static, stagnant, dead! – HeatherAsh Amara

All things in nature and aspects of living come around again.  
  • A tree births new leaves in the spring to drop them in the autumn and begin again after winter.  
  • Each day the sun rises and then sets in the evening to repeat over and over.  
  • The moon cycles monthly (every 29.5 days): New Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Third Quarter and Waning Crescent. 
  • The healing process seems to move through one phase, then another one rears its head.  
  • We think we have learned a life lesson and then another experience brings it into our awareness yet again. 
This is not to say that either linear or cyclical living is better than the other but to make an acknowledgement that both exist, as we need to learn to navigate both in our current world.
Humans have a complicated relationship with time. Our modern lives are almost ridiculously structured by linear time and its precise measurement. However, our human ancestors, and some of our relatives today, live by a different understanding of time, one that it is cyclical, circadian, and rhythmic. There may be wisdom in that.  -The Perspective

Do you have a linear or cyclical view of time?  

To keep meetings and dates with others, we rely upon the calendar and the clock. We create budgets and spreadsheets and action lists in order to complete projects and communicate with others. And these structures are guidelines, not cast in stone, but a snapshot of a time or idea. Therefore, our creativity is needed to move through time and adapt the images of those measures to what is currently happening. 

Moving between the two ways of time requires an unwinding from our judge-victim, black-white linear thinking back into the heart of courageous, cyclical creativity. When we acknowledge that most of life cycles—we cannot simply tick the box and be done but instead know that this to shall return with the next cycle or flow—we may then open our hearts and our inner artist and learn to move with the flow. We may become open to gratitude and forgiveness as well as our place in the greater cosmos. 

While I personally utilize a planner with the months and weeks of the year within, I created a cyclical calendar of the year in order to track time in relation to the seasons of the sun and the moon.  I printed and laminated this and can use dry-erase markers to add my intents for each season and I use the hands to track the moon cycles and the current season  on the outer edge keeping the cycle within view regularly.  

Would you like a PDF of this cyclical calendar?

Would you like a PDF file for your own cyclical calendar?  Request here

Noticing your life flow through the rhythms and cycles of the sun and moon can open you up in new ways. 

Are you feeling in the flow of life? 

Or are you caught in an eddy and finding even the simplest activities challenging?   

Traditions have linked each cycle of the moon to the best time for performing certain activities. This is exemplified in a variety of publications such as the Farmers’ Almanac or the Moon Sign Book. In general, a new moon is a time to plant seeds and set intentions. The full moon is a time to release and forgive.

I have also come across an artist who paints a free form landscape and then looks back at where the moon was during the creative cycle noticing whether she was open and free flowing or more structured and detail oriented. Women’s bodies have a natural link to the cycles with their “moon cycle” or monthly flow. 

Embracing Your Cycles

While we need the linear time to interact in today’s world with others, would you consider adapting a cyclical frame within your daily living?  

By embracing concepts from the medicine wheel of our four aspects of life—mind, spirit, emotion, and physicality—opens us up to more levels of healing and well-being.  We are more than a body. Working with all of ourselves and embracing the movement through the cycles creates a new level of being within ourselves which ripples out to our environment. 

We may become curious about new ways to bring cyclical living into focus in our everyday patterns. I invite you to explore more of my blog posts and contact me if you’re interested in learning more about the kinds of tools that have been transformative for me in my journey of attuning to cyclical living in my life. 

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