Now say it in your best Yoda voice: Do or do not. There is no try.
Aaahhhhh, very good.
A few months ago I messed up my foot while trail running with my dog, Jake. We run on a pretty tricky trail system in the woods, full of loose rocks, boulders covered with leaves, slippery stumps, etc. so it is not hard to twist an ankle or even go flying into a full-frontal skid while out there. It's even easier to take a spill when running with a few girlfriends and engaging in deep conversation on uneven terrain.
It should have come as no great surprise that after injuring my foot, and not allowing it to fully heal (OK, not giving it any time at all to heal...) I would fall into a pattern of repeat injuries and leave myself with a doozy of a problem that would keep me off the trail for nearly two months.
While on involuntary hiatus, I met an adventure racer who owns an outdoors outfitter in Manchester, Vermont. After hooking me up with new trail shoes and wicked orthotics, he stopped me in my tracks. He said something like this: "You're going to have to start slow because now you are afraid and the fear is what will get you injured again."
Woah. So simple. So true. So Yoda.
Fear, or "The F Word" is a legitimate response to danger or external threats. In a fear state, the body reacts with physiological symptoms such as the engagement of the fight or flight response, increased heart rate, perspiration and dilated pupils.
But fear taken out of context can manifest as anxiety, worry, panic, obsession and rumination... essentially taking us out of our reality and firmly planting us in a parallel universe--one where our delusions can occlude our perception of reality.
And we all know how that scene plays out.
Depending on your individual temperament or constitution, you may find yourself suffering from insomnia, digestive complaints, panic attacks, skin rashes or hormonal disturbances. Now what?
You could just grab a few Xanax and get on with your day. Or go smoke a joint. Down a few shots. Eat 100 Oreos and a few pints of Ben and Jerry's. Maybe lock yourself in your room and never come out. The possibilities are endless.
Or you could breathe.
I think that breathing is grossly underrated. We forget to do it all the time and if not for the autonomic nervous system, we'd all be panting--or dead.
Getting into states of heightened anxiety and worry can lead us to hold our breath or to breathe shallowly... it can leave you feeling lightheaded, or even as if you are "out of your body." Not breathing can exacerbate the feelings of anxiety and heighten the state even further.
Fortunately, there are some really beautiful, yet simple meditation techniques that can help to center the mind on the breath when inappropriate use of the "The F Word" comes into play.
A favorite technique is what I call "circular breathing" and it is used in yoga and many other disciplines to bring the mind and the breath into unison and to quiet the chatter while getting you into the present moment.
Here's how it goes...
Find a quiet place to sit or stand. Remove your shoes. If you choose to sit, be sure to have both of your "sit bones" (the bones in your butt) evenly weighted on the chair.
Firmly plant each foot on the ground and feel the earth under your feet. Feel each toe and then imagine that your big toe, pinky toe and heel form a well-balanced triangle. Check your physical alignment and make sure that your knees, hips and shoulders are on top of one another and your spine is not twisted or hunched.
When you are settled, comfortable and quiet, begin to "watch your breath." Listen to the cadences and rhythms. Breathe first through a wide open mouth and then close your mouth and breathe only through your nose. Notice how different each is.
Settle into your breath and feel it go in and out of the nose slowly, deeply and rhythmically. If you are under stress, the natural tendency is to either breathe too rapidly or too shallowly... so take it easy.
Visualize the in-breath going from your nose, up over your head, and down your spine; then the out-breath continues the circle heading down the base of your spine, under your pelvis and back up the front of the body.
Watch your breath make this circle for three to five minutes and begin to feel the quiet and calm return.
In yoga, breathing is said to build and regulate the "Prana" or life energy of the human body. In Homeopathy, we call that energy the "Vital Force." In Chinese Medicine it is known as Chi or Qi. To Yoda, it is simply, "The Force."
Breath-work--either as part of a meditation practice, a yoga practice or as its own discipline--is an effective tool for increasing relaxation, purification and the flow of Prana.
Homeopathy is another avenue to consider when symptoms related to "The F Word" get out of hand. If you try breathing and meditation techniques but they don't take care of the whole problem--or when it is obvious that something is more than a little stuck--a qualified Homeopathic Practitioner may help you to find balance and relief.