It’s Loving Kindness Wednesday!
Last week, the DC metro area was hit by Snowzilla, which brought three feet of snow to some areas in Maryland and Virginia. Schools were cancelled; office buildings were closed. I worked from home while my son played from home. After six days of being cooped up inside juggling the challenges of working on a laptop with no extra monitor, dialing into teleconference calls and entertaining my son’s “boredom”, I was ready to go back to work.
Unfortunately, the roads and parking lots weren’t ready.
Thursday morning (which was six days after the snowfall), I spent 30 minutes circling the lot at work to find a spot. I couldn’t give up and go home, because I was scheduled to teach yoga onsite from noon to 1:00 p.m., and it was too late to track down a substitute. I finally found an “illegal” spot, parked, and hoped for the best. As I was walking from my car to the associate entrance, security called out to me and warned me that the spot in which I parked could result in someone accidentally ramming into the back of my car. By this point, I was already overly stressed and worried. I couldn’t allow the “possibility” that my car was going to get hit worry me more. So I explained to security that I didn’t have a choice and would return in about an hour to find a new spot. An hour later, I came back outside and discovered another much larger car, a van, parked behind mine. I thought, “OK. No one is going to have a problem seeing that car!” So I went back inside and finished out my work day.
Later, I made it home in time to make dinner for my son but had to go back out to teach my Thursday evening meditation class. I left my house 90 minutes before the session was to start thinking that would be plenty of time to travel the 15 miles to Bethesda. Well, at the 70-minute mark, I was in my car at a dead stop on Wisconsin Avenue surrounded by bumper-to-bumper traffic and snow piles higher than a city bus. I felt trapped. I looked at the time, and fear set in. “I’m not going to make it to class before my clients.” More anxiety washed over me, and I sensed panic bubbling beneath the surface. My body started getting warmer and warmer. I took off my coat, turned down the heat and paused. I shifted my mind away from the elements making me feel trapped — the snow, the cars, the time ticking by — and consciously began practicing my grounding techniques. After a few more minutes, I looked to the left of me. Miraculously, among the cars and snow, I saw an empty parking space on the corner of a cross street. I knew if I could maneuver to that spot, I’d be able to walk to my destination and get to class before my students. So I turned my wheel in the direction of the empty spot, switched on my turn signal and traffic parted to let me through. I was so grateful! I parked easily in the space and walked the rest of the way, making it to class 15 minutes before anyone else arrived.
In the not-so-distant past, I wouldn’t have made it to class. I would have remained stuck and trapped in my car, sweating, crying and feeling completely helpless. But through the power of mindful grounding exercises, I’ve been able to re-train my brain to handle stress and triggers healthier and with more positive results.
Trauma brain and the miracles of breathwork*
When in stressful situations, which includes being triggered and reliving past trauma, your sympathetic nervous system is instantly activated — your body constricts and becomes tense, your heart begins to race, your breath becomes labored and you find yourself fighting, taking flight, or freezing. In addition to these outward signs of stress, stress also induces your body to produce cortisol, a naturally occurring hormone that can become toxic at high levels resulting in damage and destruction of cells in your brain’s hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for coordination of all brain activity, specifically memory and learning. If your hippocampus is weakened by stress, you run the risk of losing your memory, your skills and your ability to learn new skills. Therefore, reducing and neutralizing stress in your life, especially in the midst of healing from past traumas, helps to normalize cortisol production in your body and bring balance and health to your central nervous system.
Luckily, there is a tool accessible to each of us that naturally has the power to heal us from the inside out…our breath!
Breathwork turns the mindless act of breathing into a mindful one and profoundly reduces and neutralize stress and trauma. Through breathwork, we consciously stimulate our voluntary nervous system by imposing specific rhythms and patterns on our breath while simultaneously reconditioning our involuntary nervous system patterns and neural pathways. In essence, we reset our conditioned responses and re-learn how to respond to stress and trauma from a place of awareness and consciousness. The result is a happier, healthier and more aware you!
One breath technique I learned and practice daily is 4-7-8 breathwork.
Dr. Andrew Weil, 4-7-8 breathing technique advocate and practitioner, believes everyone can benefit from breath work:
“Once you develop this breathing technique by practicing it every day, twice a day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. Use it to deal with food cravings. Great for mild to moderate anxiety, this exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.”
- Relax your breathing and blow all of the air out through your mouth.
- 4- Breathe in gently through your nose (with mouth shut) for 4 seconds.
- 7- Hold the breath for 7 seconds.
- 8- Push breath out through your mouth for 8 seconds.
- Repeat 4 times, twice a day, every day. After 1 month, you can repeat 8 times, twice a day but never more than 8 times twice per day.
- (Watch a demo by Dr. Weil)
Paula Carrasquillo, MA, RYT-200
love. life. om. yoga and health coaching
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