How to Breathe With Your Whole Body

January 24, 2019

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Spending time in the woods—or shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”)—has been proven to significantly strengthen our immune system and increase our overall happiness. The forest air triggers our bloodstream to produce 40 percent more natural killer cells, which help fight harmful viruses, bacteria, and other illnesses. The tradition of forest bathing goes back a long time in Japan’s folk medicine, but it has its longest history in China and Taiwan and has been called senlinyu there for centuries.

Ancient knowledge about healing from nature is also found in traditional Chinese medicine. Numerous exercises from qigong are designed to “absorb the chi of nature” and are carried out mainly in forests or green areas with trees. Even the qigong masters of the past apparently knew that nature not only heals in the form of plant- and mineral-based pharmaceutical substances, but also by a person simply being present in a green space and breathing. In qigong, absorbing the chi of nature is always associated with breathing techniques.

Xiaoqiu Li, a two-time Chinese state champion in wushu (traditional Chinese martial arts), taught me the following exercise for “whole-body breathing.” This specific exercise helps you to take in the healthy forest air quite intensely and to release old air and harmful substances very consciously. You will especially feel the purifying effects of this exercise in your body if you are a smoker or live in a polluted city.

Look for a place in the woods that appeals to you and that has an even surface to stand on, and then follow these steps:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and as parallel to each other as possible, with your knees slightly bent and arms relaxed at your sides.
  2. “Open” your chest cavity by lifting your arms up in the air away from your body, in the form of a circle overhead, as if you were a tree revealing its mighty crown to the sky. Take a deep breath in while doing this, starting in your stomach and continuing to fill up your chest with air.
  3. When your arms meet over your head, guide them down in front of your body, holding them together and parallel to each other. Simultaneously begin to breathe out, making fists with your hands while squatting down.
  4. At the end of these movements, slowly press your elbows against your body at stomach level. This pressing of the elbows and curving of your body help your lungs to empty themselves entirely.
  5. Repeat these movements slowly and mindfully and try to make everything as smooth as possible.

Excerpted from The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bond Between Humans and Nature by Clemens G. Arvay.

Clemens Arvay - The Whole-Body Breathing Exercise Sounds True BlogBorn in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. He also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

 

 

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Clemens G. Arvay

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A Nature Meditation for Better Focus

A Nature Meditation for Better Focus A Nature Meditation for Better Focus

  1. Find a quiet spot in nature or in your garden where you don’t feel observed. If you choose a forest, look for a hiding place or a protected area. A high boulder, hill, or mountainside also works well for meditation.
  2. Find a sensory impression that appeals to you and generates positive feelings, ideally one that fascinates you. Either a sound you hear, an object that appeals to you and you can hold in your hand, or maybe something else that you can see but not touch, like rays of sunshine cutting through the trees or a line of ants hiking across the forest floor.
  3. Concentrate completely on your nature object. How does it feel? Notice the details. Get into your sensory perception and concentrate only on this perception. Try to put other sensory impressions in the background.
  4. Try to assign your sensory impression an emotion. How does it feel in your mind? What does it remind you of?
  5. Invite these feelings without forcing them. After a while, redirect your attention more and more to these feelings and toward your inner self. Do this knowing that your nature object triggered these feelings in you and represents itself in this way inside you.
  6. Once you feel that your meditation is complete or that you can no longer maintain your concentration, you can thank your nature object with an inner or outer gesture and gradually direct your attention to other stimuli in your environment, one by one, until you see nature as a whole again.

Excerpted from The Healing Code of Nature: Discovering the New Science of Eco-Psychosomatics by Clemens G. Arvay.

Clemens G. ArvayHealing Code of NatureBorn in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. He also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

 

Buy your copy of The Healing Code of Nature at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

How to Breathe With Your Whole Body

Blog header - How to Breathe With Your Whole Body Sounds True blog

Spending time in the woods—or shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”)—has been proven to significantly strengthen our immune system and increase our overall happiness. The forest air triggers our bloodstream to produce 40 percent more natural killer cells, which help fight harmful viruses, bacteria, and other illnesses. The tradition of forest bathing goes back a long time in Japan’s folk medicine, but it has its longest history in China and Taiwan and has been called senlinyu there for centuries.

Ancient knowledge about healing from nature is also found in traditional Chinese medicine. Numerous exercises from qigong are designed to “absorb the chi of nature” and are carried out mainly in forests or green areas with trees. Even the qigong masters of the past apparently knew that nature not only heals in the form of plant- and mineral-based pharmaceutical substances, but also by a person simply being present in a green space and breathing. In qigong, absorbing the chi of nature is always associated with breathing techniques.

Xiaoqiu Li, a two-time Chinese state champion in wushu (traditional Chinese martial arts), taught me the following exercise for “whole-body breathing.” This specific exercise helps you to take in the healthy forest air quite intensely and to release old air and harmful substances very consciously. You will especially feel the purifying effects of this exercise in your body if you are a smoker or live in a polluted city.

Look for a place in the woods that appeals to you and that has an even surface to stand on, and then follow these steps:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and as parallel to each other as possible, with your knees slightly bent and arms relaxed at your sides.
  2. “Open” your chest cavity by lifting your arms up in the air away from your body, in the form of a circle overhead, as if you were a tree revealing its mighty crown to the sky. Take a deep breath in while doing this, starting in your stomach and continuing to fill up your chest with air.
  3. When your arms meet over your head, guide them down in front of your body, holding them together and parallel to each other. Simultaneously begin to breathe out, making fists with your hands while squatting down.
  4. At the end of these movements, slowly press your elbows against your body at stomach level. This pressing of the elbows and curving of your body help your lungs to empty themselves entirely.
  5. Repeat these movements slowly and mindfully and try to make everything as smooth as possible.

Excerpted from The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bond Between Humans and Nature by Clemens G. Arvay.

Clemens Arvay - The Whole-Body Breathing Exercise Sounds True BlogBorn in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. He also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

 

 

Summer Super Sale - The Biophilia Effect

Buy your copy of The Biophilia Effect at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pinterest - The Whole-Body Breathing Exercise Sounds True Blog

5 Ways to Bring Nature into Playtime: The Biophilia Ef...

The childhood capacity to play creatively helps kids learn how to solve problems more effectively. Children develop their motor and mechanical skills, as well as planning skills and teamwork. The fact that many of our children now spend little time playing outdoors, growing up instead with commercial toys, video game consoles, computer games, and television prevents them from learning practical things in such a simple and joyful way as playing creatively in nature. Spending more time in nature or in a garden can bring this aspect back into the development of our children.

Spending time in nature can also significantly help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Richard Louv, a contributor to the New York Times and the Washington Post, speaks of the “Ritalin of nature” and advocates that children be treated with time in nature instead of with medication. But even for children without ADHD, the effects of being in nature boost attention and concentration.

Patrik Grahn—professor in environmental psychology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences—and his team compared children in two kindergartens. One group played regularly on a playground that was mostly paved over, had few plants, and was surrounded by high-rise buildings. The other playground was in the middle of woods and meadows, bordering an overgrown orchard with old fruit trees. The children played there in almost any weather. Professor Grahn showed that these children exhibited better physical coordination and significantly better concentration skills in comparison to the children going to a playground with less nature.

Children’s ability to communicate also increases, as the researchers from the University of Illinois found in the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory. They also proved that symptoms of restlessness and hyperactivity can be alleviated even in ADHD patients by regularly playing in nature. I recommend the following to parents and teachers who wish to improve their children’s attention, communication skills, and concentration:

  • If possible, try to set up your children’s playroom/bedroom in a room that has a view of nature.
  • Motivate children to play outside in green surroundings whenever possible—even in the rain or snow!
  • Be an advocate for natural schoolyards at your children’s school. It is especially important for the recovery of the child’s ability to concentrate and interact.
  • Plant and care for trees and other vegetation at home, or work with your landlord to establish a community garden in your apartment area.
  • Get creative and make toys and other crafts from natural “supplies” from nature, such as this gourd music maker:

Musical Instruments from Gourds: Here’s How to Do It!

Dried gourds from your garden—whether short and spherical, long and cone-shaped, or those with a huge, bulbous, resounding body—make excellent rattles for children. Any variety of bottle gourds, also known as calabashes, is good for making a rattle.

Harvest the ripe calabashes in autumn. Now let the spongy flesh inside dry up and shrink. To do this, hang the calabashes at home in a way that allows sufficient air circulation around them; above a heater is particularly suitable. Drying is best done during the cold season, when home heaters are on, since low humidity is important for success. The calabashes must not touch one another, for this encourages decomposition.

During drying, it is hard to avoid a slight mold coating on the shell. This can be regularly wiped off with a cloth. You only have to take care that the gourd doesn’t get soft or rotten in spots. Occasionally it is possible to keep the calabash entirely mold-free by scraping off the outermost skin early in the drying process. Once the fruit is dried, the rattle is ready. The fruit flesh inside is sufficiently dried and shrunk so that the seeds are now free in the resulting cavity and will rattle when shaken.

Of course, calabashes can be further crafted into more sophisticated musical instruments, such as the finger piano (kalimba), which children especially like. If you enjoy working with your hands, bongos or a sitar—an Indian string instrument—can also be created from bottle gourds, as these offer an optimal resounding space. There are also types of gourds with very long, narrow fruits that, after drying and scraping, can produce a didgeridoo with proper bass and rich overtones. The Australian Aborigines traditionally made didgeridoos from branches and trunks of eucalyptus trees that were naturally hollowed out by termites in the wild.

Children will love to play instruments that they watched growing in the garden. This creates a connection that is so much more valuable than any store-bought rattle or toy drum. Other items of daily use can be produced from gourds, such as bottles, spoons, pitchers, dolls, ornamental objects, and many others. There is no limit to your creativity, and the internet is full of instructions for the use of calabashes as musical instruments and utensils.

Born in 1980, Clemens G. Arvay is an Austrian engineer and biologist. He studied landscape ecology (BSc) at Graz University and applied plant sciences (MSc) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. Arvay examines the relationship between humans and nature, focusing on the health-promoting effects of contact with plants, animals, and landscapes. The author also addresses a second range of topics that includes ecologically produced food along with the economics of large food conglomerates. Clemens G. Arvay has written numerous books, including his bestseller The Biophilia Effect. For more, please visit clemensarvay.com.

Buy your copy of The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bond Between Humans and Nature at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

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There’s a Ritual for That

Ashley River Brant is a multidimensional artist and healer whose focus is on awakening the creative and intuitive power within us all. She is the creator of Soul Tattoo®, a ceremonial intuitive tattooing modality, and the host of a podcast called Weaving Your Web. She also brings forth her medicine as a filmmaker, photographer, illustrator, and writer. With Sounds True, Ashley is releasing her first book, Tending to the Sacred: Rituals to Connect with Earth, Spirit, and Self. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon talks with Ashley about how creativity and ritual have given her a “bridge home” to a sense of purpose and belonging from the traumas of her childhood. Ashley describes how she moves through life with a “divine team of support” composed of both earthly and cosmic beings, and she offers us a ritual for connecting with our own spirit guides. They also discuss tapping into past-life memory as a process for healing present wounds, creating space to practice “sacred listening” to nature and our ancestors, and the four pillars of ritual Ashley uses to create a life of intention.

Mindful Movement: Walking Meditation 101

The Here and Now

What if you could change your life by doing one thing for just ten seconds each day? What if this thing would make you more contented, more grounded, and less stressed?

Welcome to mindfulness.

We spend almost all of our time worrying about two things: what has already happened (the past) and what hasn’t happened yet (the future). This only makes us miserable. The past is over, so there’s nothing we can do about it. And the future isn’t something we should be thinking about right now—unless we’re taking concrete action toward a goal.

Mindfulness breaks us out of this pattern by turning our awareness to the simple moments of life as they happen. We laser in on our senses as we’re experiencing them, and we feel them deeply.

So, the way to “be deep” is to focus on what’s going on right now.

I have two favorite ways to zap into the present moment.

The first way is to briefly tune in to my breath a few times a day. Set an alarm on your watch or phone to go off at three set times during the day. When it goes off, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Notice how the breath feels as it flows in and out. Let go of whatever else is going on in your mind. Then open your eyes and go back to your day.

The second way is to tune in to the little details of the day. Say you’re picking up a water bottle. Consider this: How does the bottle feel in your hand? Is it heavy or light? When you take a sip of the water, how does it feel on your tongue? Is it cool or warm? What does it taste like? Try this exercise with one small act each day.

deepMINDFUL MOVEMENT: Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a great way to de-stress and get centered while moving your body and getting some fresh air. It takes only a few minutes, so you can do it almost anywhere.

  1. The next time you’re walking down the street, start by getting your senses alert. Tune in to the pace of your steps and fall into the rhythm of the steps. What do they sound like?
  2. Turn your attention to an object you see as you’re walking. It might be a sign, a tree, or a building. Look intently at that object and observe it without labeling it. Just notice it.
  3. Now turn your attention to the noises that surround you. Don’t label them. Just listen.
  4. Finally, turn your attention to your breathing. Is it fast and shallow or slow and deep? Take a few deep breaths and continue with your steady pace.
  5. When you finish your walking meditation, take a minute and pause before reentering your day. Notice the way your body and mind feel. Carry that alertness and presence with you into the rest of your day

walking meditation

This is an excerpt from the chapter “Be Deep” from Whole Girl: Live Vibrantly, Love Your Entire Self, and Make Friends with Food by Sadie Radinsky.

 

sadie radinskySadie Radinsky is a 19-year-old blogger and recipe creator. For over six years, she has touched the lives of girls and women worldwide with her award-winning website, wholegirl.com, where she shares paleo treat recipes and advice for living an empowered life. She has published articles and recipes in national magazines and other platforms, including Paleo, Shape, Justine, mindbodygreen, and The Primal Kitchen Cookbook. She lives in the mountains of Los Angeles. For more, visit wholegirl.com.

 

 

 

 

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Bigger Isn’t Always Better (and Other Cultural Myths...

Some of our beliefs aren’t even ours. Like old wives’ tales passed down through generations or reflected back to us through society, we inherited certain cultural and familial narratives, adopted them, and left them unquestioned as “Truth.” Sometimes these inherited narratives and beliefs manifest as unquestioned traditions. For example, when making the Thanksgiving turkey, my friend’s mother always cut the breast of the bird off and roasted it separately. This process was embedded in my friend’s view of “how to cook a turkey.” When she moved to New York and began hosting her own Thanksgivings, she also sliced the top off the turkey and cooked it separately. Naturally. 

One year a guest asked her why she didn’t cook the turkey whole, which got her to thinking. She didn’t actually know why. It’s just the way it had always been done. So she called her mother to ask about the tradition: Why do we cut the tops off our turkeys? Her mother replied that she had always taken the top off because her mother had always taken the top off; it’s just the way she had learned how to cook a turkey. Naturally curious as to where this learned behavior all began, her mother called her mother, my acquaintance’s grandmother, and asked: Why do we cut the tops off our turkeys?

The grandmother, stumped, thought for a long, hard minute. “Oh,” she remembered, “the oven in my very first apartment was too small to fit an entire turkey, so I had to cook it with the top cut off.” Sixty years later, in a city across the country, my acquaintance was still cooking turkeys as a result of an oven that was too small. This is how inherited narrative works.

Here are some of the narratives that I inherited over the years, in order from most helpful to least: You can be anything that you want to be. Money isn’t very important. It is what it is, and it can’t be changed. Men prefer pretty over smart. Asking for help means you’re weak and needy. These are the ones that I’ve managed to tease out; I’m sure there are plenty more operating in the background that I can’t see.

Part of developing a wholesome or Beneficial View is identifying the stories that we live by, where they came from, and, perhaps most importantly, whether or not they are helpful on the path of waking up to our worthiness. Shariputra, one of the Buddha’s chief disciples, described Beneficial View as the practice of identifying which of our views spring from beneficial beliefs and which spring from harmful beliefs, and then choosing which to nourish and cultivate. Sometimes this also means looking at the views of the culture that we live in.

A few times every year, I host group coaching programs for a rather large online training institute with a global reach, drawing students from a dozen countries, primarily women of varying ages. These groups offer an encouraging environment in which we can speak openly about our fears and hesitations. Over the past decade, working as a coach has revealed to me just how many of us feel a chronic sense of falling behind and a nagging suspicion that we’re not quite _________ enough. You can fill in the blank here with your own particular flavor of not-enough-ness. Not educated enough, smart enough, good-looking enough, likable enough, thin enough . . . You get the picture. A consistent element of these groups has been a gobsmacking number of women sharing that they view their capabilities as insufficient or lacking. Sometimes this feeling extends to the way that they view themselves as people. It’s said that if one fish washes up on the shore, the scientist will call it what it is: a dead fish. Nothing of note, really. However, if hundreds of fish wash up on the shore, the biologist won’t look to the fish for answers. They’ll test the water that the fish are swimming in. So what’s up with the water that we all seem to be swimming in?

In the Western hemisphere, there is a deeply embedded narrative of scarcity that is nearly invisible. I don’t know about you, but I clearly remember playing the childhood game of musical chairs. It begins as a cheerful romp around the circle, with kids squealing and running to nab a chair once the music stops. As the game progresses, however, the stakes get higher. The chairs begin to disappear. The slowest, smallest, and most accommodating kids get disqualified. And the fastest, most aggressive kids advance amidst the dwindling resource of chairs. Good, clean childhood fun. Also, a wonderful way to implicitly teach kids this prevailing myth of scarcity: There is simply not enough to go around. And you better get yours before someone else takes it.

Author, activist, and fund-raiser Lynne Twist illustrates this phenomenon exquisitely in her book The Soul of Money. She likens the scarcity narrative to a “helmet” of insufficiency that we wear throughout our day that flavors every interaction we have. For example, our first thought when getting up in the morning tends to be I didn’t get enough sleep. As we get ready for the day, we think, I don’t have enough to wear, I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough room on the subway, I don’t have enough help to get this job done well, There aren’t enough good men or women on Tinder, I don’t have enough energy to meet up with my friends, and then our final thought before falling asleep is I didn’t get enough done. This view of not having enough is truly pervasive. It’s no wonder that the women I’ve worked with consistently communicate that they don’t feel like they can live up to their own, or society’s, expectations.

Even if we try to address the messages we might tell ourselves about what we have and don’t have, we can’t avoid them altogether. I was riding the subway to Brooklyn one day when a father and his daughter, who was all of five or six years old, entered the train and stood toward the center of the car. She was chatting to her dad about her day at school until one of the many subway ads caught her eye. In it, there were two juxtaposed photos of a blonde woman. In one photo, the woman was frowning while holding a lemon in each hand, which were hovering at chest height. In the other, she was holding two grapefruits, also at chest height, but she was grinning. “Dad, why is she happy in that one and sad in that one?” the girl asked, pointing to the ad for breast augmentation. I swear the entire subway car went silent in anticipation of how her father would respond. He awkwardly and skillfully lobbed the question back to his daughter. “Well . . . what do you think?” The girl waited a beat and then answered, “She’s happy there because she has big ones and sad there because she has small ones.”

Clearly she had understood the message this poster was communicating to us all: a message of scarcity, insufficiency, and how one might always be “better.” And in that instant I understood how conditioning works. Hello, demon of self-doubt. Just like the fish in the ocean, we’re bound to swallow the water that we swim in. When considering what it means to develop Beneficial View, and the view of our own worthiness, it can be helpful to identify why we might not feel worthy to begin with. If our cultural perspective is rooted in the myth of “not enough,” it would logically follow that we would inherit this not-so-beneficial view of ourselves. Through looking at our own mind in meditation practice, we begin to take stock of the stories and beliefs that are not serving us, unraveling this myth of “not enough,” and revealing the Beneficial View of our innate wholeness and worth.

This is an excerpt from Tea and Cake with Demons: A Buddhist Guide to Feeling Worthy by Adreanna Limbach.

 

adreanna limbachAdreanna Limbach is a personal coach and a lead meditation instructor at MNDFL, NYC’s premier drop-in meditation studio. Her teachings have been featured in the New York Times, Women’s Health, and Refinery29. She lives in New York City. For more, visit adreannalimbach.com.

 

 

 

 

tea and cake with demons

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