HOW DO I USE THIS BOOK?
“In the breath, the soul finds an opportunity to speak” Donna Faulds
Until now, you may not have realised that everything you do is affected by the breath, in particular, sleep. Within your breath is the story of who you are. By really paying attention to it, we can find both what is out of balance and what we need to do about it. Eventually, you will have to listen to the breath’s voice.
Have you ever noticed when you run around going about your day that your mind is racing and your breath becomes shorter? Perhaps when you get stressed multi-tasking as you zoom between applications on your computer, you realise that you are holding your breath. It is as if holding your breath could help you keep it all together. Yes stress is the enemy of the breath. In these situations, your breath is trying to tell you "you need to slow down".
In this book, I hope to share the rejuvenating power of the breath and show you how it can invigorate your body, mind and spirit and give you a great night’s sleep.
It is important to bear in mind that this is not an intellectual process, just like breathing is not something you usually do consciously. By surrendering to, and focusing on the breath, we experience a deep, profound and nourishing power that we would otherwise spend our entire lives unaware of. The secret energy of the breath is something you need to participate in physically. We need to re-learn how to surrender to the natural deep breathing patterns, by learning how to relax and let go of insidious tension in the respiratory muscles.
As you work through this book, I will be asking you to write down answers to questions and to make observations. So please get yourself a journal or notebook that you can dedicate to this journey.
It is important to take your time over the reading and contemplation of the ideas in this book and to try out the exercises. The only way to understand these concepts is through feeling and experimenting. It is not possible to gain the benefits of the exercises just by reading - they must be experienced!
First, I will be taking you through the anatomy of the breath to get you acquainted with your 'breathing apparatus'. This will help you understand why we are doing the exercises in order to free up the breathing muscles of your body.
I will show you how to get in touch with the more subtle energetic value of the life force in the breath (prana) that yoga talks about and guide you through the fascinating journey of the 5 aspects of the subtle breath or 5 vayus. Getting to know how these forces work will help you understand the importance of breathing freely and deeply, and how this can get you back into balance and sleeping well.
Once you have worked through the various exercises in each of the 5 vayus, I will take you into the Surrendered Breath practice. This practice brings all the teachings from the previous chapters together, so it is important to go work the exercises in order at least once rather jumping ahead.
I have created a five week plan to help give structure to your new practice together with a number of practice recipes for various times when you need help with something in particular.
SLEEP IS THE LOCK AND BREATH IS THE KEY
“Modern medicine is just too damn effective”. Gandhi
Healing the natural way is not instantaneous like popping a pill for a condition like insomnia but the benefits far outweigh the pharmaceutical route. You only have to read the instructions inside the medication to find a long list of undesirable and damaging side effects. Tablets might get you to sleep, but the quality will probably to be poor and you are likely to gain another set of problems related to the side effects. As Gandhi so rightly said, “modern medicine is just too damn effective”. As a society, we are used to quick fixes; it can be difficult to be patient. The only 'side effects' one has with of the natural solution to insomnia will include better sleep and more energy. Your digestion may also improve and you may even find yourself becoming less emotionally reactive when under stress, just to name a few.
If we are to be healthy, life requires balance between rest and movement. This is also true in nature where the energy of the sun brings daytime activity, and, as the sun sets, nature becomes quiet as it rests and recuperates, preparing for the next day. If, like many of us, you are 'on the go' from six o’clock in the morning and continue to stare at your computer screen until ten in the evening, your brain will not easily switch off. As a result, your physical body will lose it's equilibrium, and more than likely, interrupt your natural sleep rhythm.
In ancient times when there were no computers and less pressure to have it all, I imagine that insomnia and sleep deprivation were uncommon. It would benefit us all to bring back a bit more of a balanced approach to work and life goals, and allow ourselves time to be 'human beings', not always 'human doings'.
Sleep is one of the natural, automatic responses of the body and mind and not having enough of it is likely to result in illness to some degree.
If you suffer from stress and insomnia, then I urge you to take the time and make the effort to do the exercises I recommend in the later chapters in this book. Good health and better sleep is most certainly within your reach if you do. Before we move on, let me list some of the benefits that can arise from of good breathing:
• Better sleep
• General mental and emotional wellbeing
• A better immune system
• The feeling of being grounded and calm during stress
• A more efficient detoxifying system
• You will feel more connected to your spiritual nature
• Better concentration
• A calmer mind
• Lower blood pressure
• More equilibrium between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems
• Fewer headaches
• Your body will be more efficient at releasing tension in muscles and internal organs