Just Breathe

This post is written in collaboration with some of the most stellar and deep-thinking women I've met. It's a series called The Refined Collective, organized by The Refined Woman. Each month, we'll each share our thoughts on an assigned topic. This month is all about Breathing. Be sure and check out the other women who are a part of this Collective: Katherine HarrisJoanne Encarnacion, Corie Clark, Jackie Viramontez, Julien Garman, Nikia Phoenix, Brynn Watkins, Jessica Chow and Tonhya Wysong. Check out the other ladies on Instagram!


It happens to me so often. An entire day goes by... I somehow navigated through various meals, different conversations and plentiful moments but the one thing I didn't "get done" was simply becoming aware of my breath. Our breath is magnificent in that it's the only function we do both consciously and unconsciously, voluntarily and involuntarily. How amazing is that?! We can do this because breathing is connected to two different sets of nerves - our sympathetic nervous system and our parasympathetic nervous system. What I want to shed light on in this post is recognizing when to tap into each individual set, why it's important to do this and what can happen if we don't. 

Beside being our life force and one of the most incredible gifts we're given every single day, our breath is closely tied to our health and well-being, specifically our hormones. Without getting too scientific, it's important to understand the role our hormones play in our health and how we can alter their relationship to our bodies and, moreover, their overall effect on our minds and mental state. WHY? Because we all want to be happy and enjoy highly functioning bodies, right? Right. Enter: our beautiful breath. 

The sympathetic nervous system is in charge of keeping us safe from danger - when it's activated in our bodies, we're able to face threats and quickly decide to "fight or take flight." This is tremendously helpful when we're actually facing dangerous threats, such as being chased by a lion or predator. In these stressful cases or simply when the sympathetic nervous system is activated (even without actual threats), the hormone cortisol gets dumped into our bloodstream to deal with this stress - physical or mental. The way cortisol works is it essentially shuts down other systems - like our immune system - to divert all energies to dealing with the stress. You can see how this could become an issue over an extended period of time when we're not actually being chased by lions (because most of us aren't). Our bodies - our sympathetic nervous system - can't tell the difference between a real threat and something like "I have so much on my plate right now at work." It deals with both stressors in the same exact way. Too much cortisol in our bloodstream can lead to many illnesses and unhealthy effects, such as high blood pressure, rapid weight gain, skin conditions, anxiety, depression and the list goes on. No one wants any of that! 

Our parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is in charge of helping us heal, recover, rest and bring calmness into our bodies. Sometimes referred to as the "rest and digest" system, the parasympathetic system works to balance the effects of having triggered our "fight or flight" sensors. What a cool balancing act our bodies innately have. 

I've already established how both systems are connected to our physical health through the hormones that get released when each is activated. But what's also extremely important to recognize here is how directly tied both systems are to our mental health. In understanding this close relationship we can begin to infuse our daily life and general health with doses of the good stuff. What's the good stuff you ask? Yep, you know it! It starts with our breath. 

Remember when I said earlier that our breath is both voluntary and involuntary? The involuntary is what keeps us alive despite us forgetting to breathe for an entire day (or days, weeks, months. AH!). The voluntary is what we do intentionally. The voluntary kind can be used to actually kick the parasympathetic nervous system (think: recover, rest, balance, exhale) into gear and deactivate the sympathetic one (think: fight or flight, reaction to stress, inhale). This is wonderful news because we live in a world where we're all constantly ON; we're constantly going and doing and trying. Think of someone who's highly stressed and you can probably visualize rapid breathing as opposed to visualizing someone who's quite calm and the word exhale almost drips from the scene. The problem is we are living in full-on stress mode, most of us land on the sympathetic side most of the time, preventing our bodies from getting that healing parasympathetic goodness. I know this firsthand because I've felt the immediate effects of turning that off simply by breathing and noticing how much better I feel. If you've ever done any type of meditation or yoga or breathing exercise, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about. It's time to take control of our bodies, our minds and our overall health by simply taking the time to breathe. 

Here's a daily practice you can do to start blessing your body with healing and calming vibes:

  • Find a comfortable seat. This could be in your home, at your office, on the subway or anywhere you're able to sit quietly for 5 minutes.
  • Close your eyes and gently let your hands rest on your legs.
  • Begin just by listening to your breath. The tone. The length. The temperature. Where it lands. Where it expands. No judgements. Simply being curious with yourself and your breath.
  • Exhale all your air out.
  • Inhale for a count of 2 - breathe in air to capacity. Fill yourself up. Pause for a moment at the top.
  • Exhale for a count of 4 - let all the air exit your body. Empty yourself completely and pause at the bottom. Continue with this count until you feel you're ready to to lengthen each cycle. 
  • Inhale for a count of 4, pause.
  • Exhale for a count of 6, pause. Continue with this count until you feel you're ready to to lengthen each cycle. 
  • Inhale for a count of 6, pause.
  • Exhale for a count of 8, pause. Continue with this count for another minute or two.
  • After 5-10 minutes, allow your breath to continue naturally, at its own pace. 
  • Softly flutter your eyes open and smile.

I've prepared a video to guide you through this process so you know you're not alone in this! I hope you take this exercise and weave it into your life intentionally and voluntarily. If this is something you've enjoyed and want to see more of, please do leave a comment or message me separately - I always love keeping conversations going! 

Sending you immense love and wishes for your breath and body to be spacious and soft,

Tutti


This post is written in collaboration with some of the most stellar and deep-thinking women I've met. It's a series called The Refined Collective, organized by The Refined Woman. Each month, we'll each share our thoughts on an assigned topic. This month is all about Breathing. Be sure and check out the other women who are a part of this Collective: Katherine HarrisJoanne Encarnacion, Corie Clark, Jackie Viramontez, Julien Garman, Nikia Phoenix, Brynn Watkins, Jessica Chow and Tonhya Wysong. Check out the other ladies on Instagram!

 

From My Aura To Yours | Happy New Year!

Sometimes a mirror just doesn't cut it for us to truly see ourselves. Despite the clear reflection staring back at us, we may or may not have a jaded view of ourselves due to society, insecurities, ignorance, reluctancy, etc. There's a gap, then, between what we see and what is

I experience this time and time again, when women look at their pictures and mention something that needs to be changed that I would've never noticed, or when a friend comes to me feeling a rainbow of negative emotions that so clearly have a simple solution in my eyes. The reality is that there are so many external factors that get in the way of us really seeing ourselves but sometimes a third-party is able to shorten the gap between the differing perceptions. 

Anything that brings light to why we think the way we do or why we act the way we do is always fun and, as humans, we long to know the why of things. So in the spirit of finding out "stuff," I booked a slot to get my aura photo taken. Radiant Human is led by Christina Lonsdale and has been growing immensely the past few years because of the gorgeous portraits and colors the picture produces but also, in my opinion, because people love knowing more about themselves. 

The experience was very cool and I highly recommend it to everyone! I don't want to give away too many details of the actual process in case you get to participate with Radiant Human, but all in all, I'm so pleased with my aura photo! 

Aura photo by Christina Lonsdale of Radiant Human

Aura photo by Christina Lonsdale of Radiant Human

After your polaroid-size photo is ready, Christina goes through what all the colors mean and how they may manifest in you and your life. Like I said, I'm so interested in knowing the why of things, especially things like behavioral patterns, so this was as reaffirming as the most on-point zodiac horoscope could ever be. 

The gist of these colors is that some have to do with your internal, some with how you present yourself to the world, others have to do with your conscious, and mixed together, they show a colorful painting that make up who you are. The colors and high-quality portrait alone are enough to make this popular, add to that an element of self-awareness and I'm not surprised Radiant Human is doing so well.

As 2016 approaches, I'm writing this post in the hopes of inspiring you to assess who you are and who you show up to the world as. Are they aligned? Would you like to be less of something and more of something else? What are you waiting for? There's so much energy inside us that's meant to be intentionally shared with the world because, guess what, it already is!

Today and everyday we get opportunities to observe, notice and move. It's up to you what direction you want to move in and it's up to you when you start.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, my friends! Sending you all lots of love and positive energy for 2016!

In love + color + light,

Tutti

 

 / / C R E D I T S / / 

Radiant Human

adiant Human Instagram @radianthuman