If you are anything like me, from time to time you want to control everything. You feel most comfortable when knowing what is going to happen next and how… why… when to stir the ship in the “right” direction.
Behind the scenes, you might desire to be more Pheobe-like, surrendering to the flow, but your mind keeps portraying the obsessive-planning Monica. You are lead by your will to do something. Head first!
But honestly, how comfortable does this really make you feel in your physical body?
There’s a fine balance between being a control geek and being a control-freak. And today, I am sharing with you 3 breathing exercises to help loosen up your grip, and more importantly: how to notice when you need to?
Physical Signs of Controlling
When something is important to us, we want the will to do it and push through with our best intention. We spend hours and hours grinding. But what often happens is that we get too caught up in the detail and lose ourselves in the process. We try to control ev-e-ry-thing. That’s when we stop allowing things to flow.
This can happen with relationships, work, projects, personal goals, and many other life situations.
Often the control is either out of fear or some other sub-conscious emotional response. The uncertainty of the unknown outcome can be frightening.
But if we indulge these fears with catastrophizing thoughts, we forget to be in the here and now. Not knowing what is next is unnerving, but it is not evidence of things getting worse.
This need for control not only manifests in the psychological realm but also in the physical. The major indicator for this is the breath. When faced with challenges, we often hold the breath, restrict or limit it.
Below are some typic physical signs to look for:
- Shallow breathing
- Tight shoulders, creeping their way up to the ears
- A hunched-over posture, or tight upper back
- Tightness in the stomach and/or bloated belly (not caused by foods)
- Locked toes, feet and ankles / same for hands (= too tight grip)
- A feeling of being tense and anxious
- Tense face muscles and jaws
Focus on your breath
As we get caught up in the head, our physical body is subconsciously sent to the backend of our minds. We focus on thinking, rather feeling, and living in the here and now.
When the body becomes highly strung, the breathing capacity is proportionally limited. Thus the majority of the oxygen inside is directed straight to the head to feed our control-freaking mind.
This results in even less oxygen to the rest of the body, and the solar plexus aka the third chakra aka the power-and will-center is blocked.
We may start to grasp for more air – which of course just adds up on the pile since the lungs are trapped and the will is held hostage and have little wiggle-room to expand and take in new life.
This is the negative cycle that we have to break in order to loosen up and regain our focus.
When you focus on the flow of the breath, you surrender to the knowing and trusting that after each breath, another will follow. You allow the mind and body to work together again, easing up the tension and anxiety you’ve built up.
You surrender to the knowing and trusting that after each breath, another will follow.
Here are 3 breathing exercises to help you loosen up:
These simple, yet effective exercises will teach you how to drop your shoulders, soften your solar plexus, and allow your intuition to guide you on as you let go in order to grow.
1) Equal Breathing
This practice is simple yet effective. It is similar to counting sheep at night, so if you’re having trouble falling to sleep, this breath helps take your mind off the racing thoughts, or whatever might be distracting you.
- HOW TO: To start, inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four (all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath)
- MANTRA: I am calming my mind, letting go of control and loosening up
- ADVANCE: Got the basic breathing down? Advance by aiming for six to eight counts per breath with the same goal and mantra in mind
- WHEN TO: Works anytime, anyplace.
2) Abdominal Breathing Technique
The breathing muscle, the diaphragm, isn’t just in the lungs. It is is a cylinder shape that is attached to the pelvic floor and covers all the way up (front and back) to the collar bones. This technique allows you to breathe fully again.
- HOW TO: Place one hand on the chest and the other on the belly. Take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm – tummy (not the chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. However uncomfortable, yes you DO want to look pregnant!
- AIM FOR: Six to 10 deeeeep, sloooow breaths per minute
- MANTRA: I am taking in new life, releasing the old and controlled
- WHEN TO: When you are caught up in your upper body and feel crumpled
3) Alternate Nostril Breathing
This is my go to when I feel stressed out, lacking energy or anxious about something. It has a long history in Ayurvedic medicine and yoga, where it’s thought to harmonize the two hemispheres of the brain, resulting in a balanced in physical, mental and emotional well-being. Try it for yourself and feel the difference.
- HOW TO: Starting in a comfortable meditative pose (or standing up), hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb, and exhaling through the left nostril
- AIM FOR: At least three full rounds
- MANTRA: My mind is slowly and surely re-balanced and refreshed
- WHEN TO: When work, kids, tasks or demands in your day-to-day-life stresses you out.
Once at a more calm state, you can bring these lessons into the practical realm.
When practiced over time, you will most likely start noticing how these simple strategies help you in your everyday life too: Everything and everyone requires breathing space. Thus as you loosen up your grip, your ship will flow more easily and effortlessly in the right direction on its own.
To respect your breathing is to respect your powerhouse and self, others and life in general. Ahoy, Captain!
As always, with love