Paradoxically, while we were writing The Inner Peace Diet, we experienced the most stressful period in our lives to date. My dad was diagnosed with a malignant, inoperable brain tumor, our two year old was hospitalized due to bowel issues and we faced unforeseen financial difficulties related to the dissolution of our family's restaurant business. To complicate matters,I almost burnt down our house in an attempt to ensure a recipe was technically accurate (I got sidetracked by a hot game of hide and seek and forgot all about the pot on the stove) It was as if the universe was playing a cruel trick on us. The exercises in our book were being put to the test on a daily basis. Does The Inner Peace Diet really work? Is it actually possible to maintain a sense of inner peace during life's most challenging days?
We are very proud to say the exercises and eating plans in our book really do work. In more ways that one, this book was a lifesaver. Nearly every day, I was forced to put into practice each personal growth exercise I wrote. Although the outer circumstances of my life seemed difficult, I was able to tap into the vast sense of inner peace that is available to all of us, in every moment. For me, the quickest and simplest way to access inner peace is through my breathing.
Here are some suggestions on how to achieve inner peace through breathing:
Breathing is of one of the most grounding and calming experiences we can have in the physical form. Does it seem silly to you read instructions about a concept as fundamental as breathing? Breath is something that most of us take for granted. It is an involuntary response that we rarely think about. Air is one of our basic survival needs. Food and water compromise a mere ten percent of the human body’s daily requirements. An alarming, ninety percent of our body's daily requirement is oxygen. Perhaps many people overeat in an effort to nourish their oxygen-starved body! Without breath, human beings can only survive a maximum of ten minutes. Most of us do not breathe properly and deprive ourselves of the vital energy we need to prosper. By training our lungs to effectively take in and dispel air we can literally transform our lives and our entire chakra system.
The first step to inner peace through breathing is to simply notice your own breathing patterns. Sit quietly in a space where you will not be disturbed. Take a moment to close your eyes. Become aware of your body drawing in air. Do not attempt to change or alter anything. Simply notice your own unique and conditioned way of inhaling. Gently observe how you exhale. Do you empty your lungs completely? Or do you hold your breath? Is your breathing rapid and shallow? Does your chest expand when you take in oxygen? Do you fill your belly with air or simply just inflate your upper lungs? Is your breath even or is it jerky? Sit and notice your breath for ten minutes. Our breath is often an accurate reflection of how we live our lives. For example, does your rapid, uneven breathing mirror your chaotic and fast-paced lifestyle? In your journal, write any thoughts feeling and behaviors that this exercise stirred within you.
Yoga teacher Dawn Mehan teaches that there are five qualities to good breath. Life sustaining breath is deep, smooth, even, without sound and without pause. Does your breath embody these qualities? The following exercises are designed to help you attain healthy breathing patterns that will ground and support your root chakra center. Experiment with all four of these breathing exercises this week.
Breathing from your belly
Gently close your eyes. Place your right hand over your heart center and your left hand over your belly. Placing your hand over your heart is an act of self-love that provides an instant sense of tranquility. By placing your hand over your belly you will be able to sense your deep breaths and learn how to breathe more effectively. Allow yourself to breathe normally for three complete breaths. When you are ready, gently inhale. Fill you belly with a long cleansing breath. Sense this breath with your left hand. First fill your belly with air, then fill your lower lungs with air and finally fill your upper lungs with air. Imagine that you are filling a glass of clean, refreshing water. Pour the water from the bottom of your belly to top of your lungs. As you exhale, imagine that you are emptying the same glass of water. First empty the air from your upper lungs, then your lower lungs and finally empty your belly. Practice this breath for ten minutes. In order to enhance belly breathing, you may wish to visualize your belly as a large red balloon that expands during inhalation and deflates during exhalation.
Close your eyes. Sit in a comfortable position. Make sure that you are seated in a posture that you do not have to struggle to maintain. Allow yourself to sink into your chair or the floor. Relax your body and clear your mind of any thoughts or worries. Feel how totally and completely you are supported in this moment. Slowly inhale as you count to three. Without pausing between breaths immediately exhale as you silently count to five. This simple exercise virtually guarantees relaxation. As you inhale, you are stimulating your sympathetic nervous system. Your sympathetic nervous system mediates your body’s natural responses to stress and physical activity, by increasing your heart rate, your blood pressure and your muscle tone. As you exhale, you are engaging your parasympathetic nervous system. Responsible for rest, sleep and digestion, the parasympathetic nervous system decreases your heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tone. This simple breathing exercise lowers your heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tone by drawing on the wisdom of your own body.
Gently close your eyes. Lie down on the floor or in your bed. Practice breathing naturally for a few moments. Either silently or aloud ask yourself what part of your body most needs healing in this moment. Place the hand you use to write with over the area of your body that feels like it needs healing. This area may feel hurt, tense or simply just calls out for your attention. Place your other hand on your abdomen. Slowly inhale. As you inhale, visualize a healing energy flowing into your hand. Picture this energy as loving white light that heals every cell it touches. With each inhalation, imagine this healing light purifying your body and making it new and healthy. As you exhale, imagine the pain and negativity washing out of your body and your life. Continue breathing deeply and visualizing the healing, white light for ten minutes.