Mindful Breathing, Meditation and Stretching!
By Kirstie Bender Segarra
The practice of asana, more commonly known as “yoga” in the West, has increased in popularity to such a degree, that even in a small town like Taos, we have several yoga classes offered at yoga studios, spas, galleries, private homes and at UNM-Taos.
My earliest memories of yoga are my mother stretching on our living room floor when I was a little girl in the 70’s. As a tomboy and pure sports enthusiast I wouldn’t go there—it is not cool to do what Mom does!
Now, I am in my forties and have been a regular yoga practitioner for 16 years. What happened?
I discovered when yoga asana is taught with meditation and breath work– stress, anxiety, panic and musculoskeletal pain are reduced or completely disappear. Having a daily practice supports a lifestyle with reduced stress! There are still challenging days and now I have all these wonderful healthy tools to maintain my awareness of my breath, heart and mind.
There is a French saying by Pascal “Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point.” Translated as “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.”
When practicing mindful breathing, meditation and stretching we slow down to hear the reasons of our heart. Notice that heart has the word “hear” in it. Begin by practicing a simple breathing exercise daily and see how your stress levels reduce.
Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit. Preferably on top of an exercise ball or stack of Mexican blankets so that your pelvic floor is supported and not compressed. Close your eyes and draw your internal gaze toward your heart. Become aware of your breathing by watching your inhales and exhales. Focus your mind on the spaces between your thoughts while still maintaining awareness on your breath. Maintain this focus for at least 5 minutes. Then reflect on any changes you notice in your thoughts, breath and heart.
Daily practice of simple exercises such as the previous help us rewire our neurons. Through mindful breathing, meditation and stretching you can be the change you want for yourself.
UNM-Taos is offering three one credit courses starting March 19 in Functional Stretch, Meditation and Hatha Yoga. These courses are designed for beginners who would like to reduce stress and find healthier habits to support themselves. For more information go to the website: taos.unm.edu and check out the class schedule under general studies or call 737-6200.
Kirstie Bender Segarra, MA LMT ERYT is Chair of Integrative Health & Medical Massage for UNM-Taos and is a full time faculty, yoga teacher and massage therapist. www.balinesetraditionalmassage.com