Are you stressed out? Is your heart racing, your breath shallow, and your mind scattered and unfocused? If the answer is yes and you’d like an effective, drug-free way to calm yourself down, I have a simple remedy for you that’s scientifically proven to work and literally right under your nose.
Every Wednesday at Physical Focus in Montecito, owner and 25-year personal trainer and health coach Michael Allison leads a profoundly relaxing “Meditation for Brain, Body & Breath” class that will quickly drop you into a deep state of calm, contentment, and connection. I tried it and, yes, this definitely happened. Based on leading-edge science, this 45-minute guided practice can help you harness the power of your own breath to optimize your physical and mental wellbeing, and bring you some serious stress relief.
Much more than meditation, Michael’s class combines the sciences of the Polyvagal Theory (the activation and calming effect of the body’s Vagus Nerve) and Positive Neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to strengthen and change in positive ways) with deep breathwork and attention training. His guided breathing, involving extended inhalations and exhalations with breath holds in between, activates your body’s parasympathetic nervous system to shift into a safe and connected Ventral Vagal State. This is the opposite of your body’s sympathetic nervous system fight-or-flight response, which is activated when you’re stressed and not feeling safe.
As you follow Michael’s breathing cues, he encourages you to pay attention to the thoughts and “stories” that run through your mind. In doing this, you can begin to track your body’s autonomic states and the corresponding thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that arise from them. For example, as I first closed my eyes and began the breathwork, I found it difficult to stop making lists in my head. “What do I need for dinner”… “When am I picking up this kid and that kid” and so on. But after about ten minutes the list making stopped and I was able to narrow my focus to my breath. Time stood still and I felt my body slow down.
According to Michael, by combining guided breathing and attention training you can replace fear, frustration, and fatigue with calm strength, relaxed centered awareness, and balanced energy. Deep breathing into your belly, rather than shallow breathing in your chest, can lower your heart rate and promote physical and mental relaxation. It brings more oxygen to your cells, improves your lung capacity, and it’s one of the most effective ways to bring your body into a more alkaline state. What’s more, when practiced regularly, you can train your body and mind to turn this “resting state” into a lasting sensation hardwired into your brain, body, and nervous system.
Michael says, “Mindful awareness of the state of your Autonomic Nervous System, and your corresponding thoughts, emotions, behaviors, beliefs and habits is the foundation for making lasting positive changes to your overall health, performance and quality of life.”
I’ve found that since I started taking Michael’s breathing class it’s been easier to focus on my breath when I’m faced with stress, anxiety, and anything negative in daily life. Even five minutes practicing deep breathwork in my car can make a huge difference in my day. It’s easy to learn and best of all, you can do it anywhere, anytime. As author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle wrote, “One conscious breath in and out is a meditation.”
*Meditation for Brain, Body & Breath is a weekly class at Physical Focus, 140 Hot Springs Road, Montecito. Class is $10 for non-members and included in a PFx Unlimited Class Membership. Michael Allison offers private health coaching for $150/hour.
For more information:
140 Hot Springs Road
Montecito, CA 93108