There is something compelling about slowing down. That may be stating the obvious but it seems to slow down is a challenge for most of us. When we slow down we can appreciate the moment, find peace in the present, and feel more connected.
Three months after leaving my 9-5 gig I’m only now shifting into a slowing down mode, finding a different pace to work on my current projects, for example.
So why is slowing down such a challenge?
The wisdom traditions of yoga, Ayurveda and psychology share many commonalities including the idea of cultivating more present-moment awareness. When we examine present-moment awareness it can be seen as a form of slowing down. Think of how busy the mind is, it continues to stew and stir things up from the past and project them into the future.
Busyness starts in the mind with diffuse and disparate thoughts and a random or chaotic way of processing them. As professionals, parents or citizens of a busy world, there is a lot to occupy the mind. When the mind is in this gunic state of rajas, meaning movement and activity, it is difficult to find order, structure and routine all of which are necessary to experience a sense of slowing down.
Yoga practice cultivates the gunic state of sattva, meaning a calm, steady, balanced and peaceful mind. In this state, there is a sense of equanimity regardless of what’s going on externally. Here we can experience slowing down.
Breath is central to shaping mental activity. Slowing down and regulating the breath reduces mental activity resulting in a corresponding feeling of slowing down.
We use steady and rhythmic breathing to create sattva. A balance flow of inhalations and exhalations is the first step in establishing a sense of calm. Breathing this way outside of yoga practice is helpful during daily activities. Simply breathe through the nose while inhaling and exhaling to a count of four, for example.
Many of us are overextended with commitments. The typical person has multiple family obligations, pets to look after, work responsibilities and social commitments. Their calendar is packed. Getting rid of some of their obligations may help with slowing down. Or scheduling time in their calendar to slow down can be helpful, such as daily meditation breaks.
They could also assess how efficient they are with their overall planning. They may have gotten into a pattern of doing things in a way that is not efficient and some tweaks could provide more opportunities to slow down. The trick is not to fill the freed-up time with more commitments and busy activities.
Whether they can make changes to their routines or not, time spent working with rhythmic or other breath techniques will create more sattva. In the sattvic state slowing down is achievable.
Why is breath awareness not given more importance, especially with the proliferation of yoga over the past decades?
Breath is becoming better understood. You likely see more breath focus in yoga classes. Psychologists now employ breath work in their protocols using, for example, the “box breath” system of equal inhalations and exhalations with corresponding holds after each. The client may be instructed to visualize the breath moving through the edges of the box.
There are other breath-related programs being promoted as well which may not be appropriate for everyone.
Adopting the rhythmic four-count inhalation and exhalation is a great start. Over time the count can increase as the breath capacity does. Then the exhalation can be lengthened to twice the length of the inhalation. This is the ultimate yoga breath ratio. The elongated exhalation has a very calming and relaxing effect. It is the quintessential slowing down.
For me, a mental and energetic shift into slowing down is having a profound effect on my overall sense of well-being. I am able to build my wellness coaching program from a place of greater clarity.
When we slow down we can be more purposeful in the choices we make. Our lives can have greater meaning.
I’d love to hear your examples of slowing down and how it’s impacted your life. You can comment below or email me.