Ever been in a situation where you find out that you’ve been doing something either wrong or totally inefficiently since, oh, the beginning of time? (Like realizing you should have thought of that iced-matcha shortcut first, or could have saved so much time had you just known about this mind-blowingly simple decorating trick…) Well, it’s time to get way back to basics, because the thing I most recently discovered I’ve been doing totally wrong is the only thing I do consistently, at all hours of every single day. Oh, and there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong, too.
During my recent trip to Bali, I had my first-ever session with an energy healer, I Wayan Linggen, at the Four Seasons Bali at Sayan. The session started with a full-body massage that leaned more sports-esque than Swedish as he searched for energy blocks via physical chakra points. And afterward, he gave me the prognosis: When he pressed on the fleshy area right above my hipbones, I felt discomfort, which pointed to a blocked second chakra and a busy mind. “It’s an emotional muscle. Many things can make this area hurt,” he told me. “When you have a busy mind, sometimes it feels like a mess—this pain in the stomach is connected. When you’re tired or thinking too much, it’s connected.”
And since I’ve got a hunch that I’m not the only sleepy worker bee thinking a mile a minute who has lower abdominal discomfort conveniently located exactly where menstrual cramps like to clock in for the day (or, ugh, week), his advice for unblocking is well worth sharing: “When you have a stressed mind, your stomach can hurt. The pain I found is related to work or relationships, or anything that disturbs your mind and makes you tired in your head. To cleanse it, meditation can help.”
“Many people do meditation by just going and sitting quietly. But when people sit and close their eyes all their problems come back suddenly. Anyone who practices meditation has to do deep breathing first to relax and oxygenate the mind.” —Wayan Linggen, energy healer
But, it’s not so easy to meditate when you don’t know how to breathe correctly. And, apparently, I did not. While warming up for the meditation by practicing deep breathing, I was having troubling keeping up with Linggen’s pace for delayed inhales and exhales. After a few minutes, I was winded, and he could tell. “It’s hard for your head to get oxygenized. When people have this problem, they breathe very short. The lung is not maximized, and the head is not oxygenized.”
And though it sounds like an NBD thing, like leaving a workout class before stretch ends, Linggen stresses that missing this first step of a meditation session is an easy and common way to throw off what might have otherwise been a great and restorative experience. If the head doesn’t get warm from sufficient oxygen, the mind won’t relax, and the person won’t be able to focus, he says. “Many people do meditation by just going and sitting quietly. But when people sit and close their eyes all their problems come back suddenly. Anyone who practices meditation has to do deep breathing first to relax and oxygenate the mind.”
But there’s some good news to back up this “you’ve been doing it totally wrong” Zen bomb: The secret to perfecting your breathing and moving forward with your meditation couldn’t be much simpler. All you have to do is lie down. From there, breathe in as much as possible through your stomach (so it expands “like a balloon”), before allowing your chest to rise. The motion should look and feel like a wave in your midsection. Once your chest has risen, hold your breath, then exhale completely, through your chest then your stomach. “Eventually you will feel warm in your head. This is the easiest way to do deep breathing,” Linggen says.
And it’s certainly a skill better to adopt late than never. After all, clear minds, warm heads, can’t lose.
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