…And Breathe! How Breathing Can Help our Health

Part of the work I do at Mind on Music is encouraging people to enhance their well-being with different exercises they can do themselves such as singing for health techniques. Before we even start to make a sound though, one of the simplest yet most effective (and probably my favourite) is working with our breath.

Across the world in different cultures, focusing on our breath is held as highly important. In Hindu culture, and so in yoga, the breath is called Prana and the focus on it- Pranayama. A lot of the exercises I do with the groups I work with are inspired by and based on yogic traditions. I am not a trained yoga teacher and do not claim to be able to teach yoga. However, we all learn from our daily lives and because I do so much yoga, I incorporate the things I’m inspired by along the way into my self-practice and also into the activities I bring to the groups.19398978_10155394488934414_355127316_n.jpg

One of the best methods of breathing work I’ve found is simply to count our in and out breaths, aiming to increase the length of time we can breath in and then exhale for.

Start with four beats in and four out, with a little pause in between and gradually increase this as you feel ready to. This will slow the breath down, in turn slowing your heart rate and bringing you into a calmer, more peaceful feeling. This is a very old and well-known way of stilling ourselves, yet in our busy lives we forget even how to breathe properly!

This way of breathing has us concentrate so that we can also begin to breathe fully, as many of us live taking in shallow, half-breaths. To breathe deeply, expand your whole abdomen so that your diaphragm (the muscle just at the base of our lungs) contracts and pushes your stomach forward.

It can take some time to strengthen our diaphragms as it is a muscle so just like we wouldn’t expect to lift heavy weight immediately, it can be an ongoing process before we can breathe in this way. But by focusing on it for a few minutes each day, this will be a great start towards making your respiratory system stronger and more resistant to illness, so hopefully avoiding the many colds that go round!

Breathing techniques are great for those with Asthma, COPD, and other cardiovascular problems too. They can also be very helpful for those with chronic pain as the slowing of heart rate can reduce pain as well as the attention being diverted for a time too.

Give the above technique a go this evening and see how you feel. You might want to go out in nature or create a healing space in your home with your favourite, relaxing things around you such as having a bath or a natural candle. That said though, you need no special equipment, only the space that you currently occupy and you don’t even need a quiet room, though to begin with you may prefer to be alone.

I would just say that if you do have any illness, please consult your doctor if you feel the need to do so before trying anything new and if you begin to feel dizzy or out of breath whilst undertaking the work, then do take a break or stop.

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Create Your Own Healing Space!

To recap:

  • Start with an in-breath for four counts, pause then an exhalation for four beats also.
  • Build this up slowly, adding a beat at a time until you feel you’ve reached your limit. With regular attention, you’ll notice this number rise over time!
  • To breathe fully, expand your stomach as you breathe so you’re using your diaphragm. Again, in time this will be easier!
  • You can begin this practice anywhere, but either outside in nature, or in a healing space you create can be extra special.

Thank you for reading, I’ll be sharing more techniques very soon so please do pop back!

Best Wishes,

Bexi

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How to Keep Smiling!

With everything we’re surrounded with in our modern world, it can be a challenge sometimes to keep smiling through it all. I love to laugh and smile (often to people’s annoyance but who cares!) and this leads people to assume I never get sad or I’ve never had anything bad happen in my life or seen anything bad.

Of course this isn’t true, just like for most of us! On my travels and in daily life I’ve seen animal abuse, been treated horribly by a few people with closed hearts, had loved ones die, family dramas and had years of past personal depression- things a lot of us go through- but I always see that the good always outweighs the bad. And that’s what I really do believe- that the goodness here is always stronger than any badness.

 

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Singing always makes me smile!

Here are a few ways I keep smiling…

 

  1. Avoid the News. This isn’t saying be ignorant to current events, just choose how much you are surrounded with images of death and hopelessness which is the mood those who script the News programmes and publish papers seek to create. Avoiding biased, fear-based programming is the first step to clearing your head of the fog that keeps us from being happy.
  2. Nature! It’ll be a running joke soon that I suggest nature as the answer to most challenges, but it is true that immersing yourself in a natural setting gives a perspective that is hard to find otherwise. Using the calm of nature to still your own anxieties and running commentary really helps if you find it difficult to switch off at home. With practice, you’ll be able to bring this peace with you anywhere. Take deep breaths and focus on the birdsong, letting your own thoughts drift away as you listen to the music of nature.
  3. Connect with others. My recent blog post on this shows ways to become involved in your community to help others which in turn will help yourself. Volunteer, see family, support local shows and music and art scenes and a beautiful community spirit will grow, one you’ll be very much a part of.
  4. Travel. See the truth in the world before believing everything the media tells us. Meet people from different cultures and decide for yourself where you think people’s hearts lie and who they truly are. This again will connect you to the truth in the world, that we are not so different from each other at our core.
  5.  Create! Feeling you’re making a contribution to the world will increase feelings of happiness. This is closely related to the connecting with others idea, that by creating something others find useful or beautiful, you’ll be helping to make the world better and. Music, crafts, art, poetry- anything that you feel drawn to. It’s probably something you enjoyed doing as a child and once you pick it back up, it’ll be like you never stopped and you were meant to do it! This is how music was to me after a long break which left me very down, but once I came back to it I realised how much I love using music to make others (and myself!) happy.
  6. Get off the Internet!! I do realise the irony of saying this whilst writing a blog, that I’d like people to read- on the internet. Too much though is soul destructive as it drags us down into a world of frantic notifications and comparisons to people we barely know or people we think we know but don’t really because everything is edited beyond any meaningful reality! So spending time away, doing the above can be so beneficial. A lot of us use social media for work now so I know it’s not always easy to cut ties completely but limiting use is a great start!

 

There’s a reason smiling is also called “beaming” and that’s because it’s like a ray of sunshine beaming across all those who encounter it! Smiling really is infectious and if you share your smile with others, it’ll spread across all those you connect with and beyond so share your beautiful smile today!

Best Wishes,

Bexi

A Colourful Life!

Earlier this week I talked about a simple life, but now I want to share thoughts about a colour life with you! Something that brings me so much joy when experiencing other cultures, is how much colour there is and … Continue reading

“So, What Do you Do?”

I’ve been to a few networking events in the past and I’ve always cringed as the inevitable question, “what do you do?” is asked. I don’t avoid the question because I don’t want to tell people how I make a living. More so because the phrase is too often used as a way to define and dissect an entire person’s being in a matter of minutes.

Most of the time, what is really being asked is “How can you help me?” And this is not how we should be relating to our fellow humans here. We should be genuinely interested in people just to know more about how they think and therefore how we think ourselves!

Whilst I’m always interested in hearing about someone’s dreams and what they love doing, I never ask what their job is unless they want to offer that information. I’m more interested in what they do when they’re not in their job- where they spend their time, what they like to read, films they like…this is the person I want to know.

Organic connections are so much more solid and real. Obviously if you attend a Networking event and really do get on with someone, that’s fantastic and I’m sure many great friendships and working relationships have begun from these types of groups.

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One great way to make real connections is to get involved in your community. This could be volunteering for a local charity, joining a befriending service or simply getting to know your neighbours. Once you connect with your surrounding world, you feel more grounded and part of something. You truly never know who you may meet and by good fortune they may be able to enhance your other goals in life, and in return you may help theirs.

This is the way to gain true meaning in our acquaintances, not through artificial means. Just because successful business people achieved money and recognition this way through cliquey clubs, doesn’t mean that should be the model to aspire to. We need to change that system and start making friends just to make friends, and if our intentions are good then I’m sure the rest will follow.

Choose a community project that is close to your heart. Don’t go with what is a popular trend or fashionable. This happens when the media picks up on certain causes and illnesses and suddenly they become popular, which is great for raising awareness but can mean that smaller projects are left unrecognised.

To recap, here are a few ways to become more connected with others.

  1. Join a local group for fun. Choose what your most drawn to, this will often be something you enjoyed in your childhood. Find a local choir, netball team or reading club.
  2. Get to know your neighbours. City living doesn’t create a community feel unless we get to know the people who live alongside us, at least to say hello to in passing. If you live somewhere with a communal space, why not have a Barbecue in the summer or organise a street clean up if needed with tea and cake after.
  3. Get involved. Give your time to a charity rather than writing a cheque and forgetting about it afterwards.
  4. Call your friends and family more often. Better still, go to see them in person more frequently. We are more disbursed these days, but making the effort to visit someone will brighten up both your lives.

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Don’t just network, connect, make genuine soul connections.

Best Wishes,

Bexi

How to be you!

Welcome back!!

In this post, I want to talk about being authentic in a world that seems to value the opposite and how you can stay true to your path.

On Facebook and Instagram, we look at others and think they are leading amazing lives but the reality of it may be very different to what the output is. The truth is we can’t really know. Someone posting their pretty beach photos may be miserable there, another boasting on how much work they’re getting may be doing free gigs and being financed by their family- we can’t know but more importantly, we don’t need to know.

We don’t need to know because we must only focus on our own journey. We must stay authentic to ourselves and if that means less attention online then so be it. ‘Followers’  are not a reflection of the depth of our soul- the way we act in life is. To live a life of lies and in-authenticity is to turn away from your soul, from your true self which will eventually backfire in some way. Only focusing on what I call our surface self, will lead to a very shallow life. It is better to be honest with yourself and your heart than to disregard it in search of something you are made to feel you should be chasing. (One of my recent blog posts was about “shoulds” and how we can break this cycle!)

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Beautiful Advice!

It seems obvious to say that images are photoshopped, even videos edited frame by frame,  that people over hype themselves but we still don’t accept this as being the truth and it is deeply affecting us. When I started out singing, I had all my promotional photos edited to the point they did not look like me and I became embarrassed that when I turned up in person I didn’t look like the person on the poster! I felt I needed to do this to get bookings but actually I didn’t. I no longer send edited photos, wear false eyelashes, wear very little make up, have let my bleached hair grow out naturally and don’t pour myself in glitter as I once did and I still get booked! It can be difficult to reach a stage where you like yourself enough to present the real you, but you can get there.

Here are a few ways I use to stay authentic to myself in a world that often seems to value our surface self more than our deeper selves.

 

  • The most important thing I’ve learnt with becoming more honest with myself, is to be kind to myself. In the past I thought I was being honest in those inner mind conversations we all have but actually I was constantly berating myself for not being good enough. So look after yourself, treat your mind and body well with whatever it is that makes you happy and feel well- eating good food, resting and speaking to yourself nicely will all help you love yourself.
  • Keep a diary or a blog! Writing your thoughts down, certainly helps sieve out any of the little lies we tell ourselves. When you see your words in front of you they become their own entity and so they are easier to evaluate and assess until you can find the truth in them. A diary is usually more truthful as it’s not intended for others to read whereas with a blog, the same temptation to edit your life in the same facebook style may creep in.  Write for yourself, let your own voice flow out and you’ll write in truth.
  • Be with people who uplift you, even if that means being alone! It’s so vital to be surrounded by people who support you and if you don’t have that at this present time, then you are better off spending some time alone. I am so grateful that I have a very supportive family now, but I often need to be on my to recharge as I’m an insular person and I need and want my own company very regularly.
  • Stay off social media. Again, this is a warning often given nowadays but how many of us listen? I certainly am one who has to consciously watch how much time I spend online. It is a challenge when you’re work is intertwined with interacting with others online, but it is doable. Set specific times you will spend online and set an alarm to notify you when you might want to turn the laptop off.  Don’t let it be the first thing you wake up and the last thing you fall asleep after.

 

Of course, chasing a dream of superficial fame and fortune will be some people’s path as there are lessons to be learned here that may not be grasped elsewhere. That doesn’t mean it is your path though or that it is a fulfilling, happy one. I’m certain there are far happier people who, to Western standards, have nothing than there are on the red carpet at the Oscars.

It is said so often, but we must learn to love ourselves and know that our sparkle comes from within us- it is not measured by how much external shiny things we can pile on ourselves!

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We are not here to live someone else’s dream. You are not here to live someone else’s dream, please remember that and go and live your own dream, being the beautiful true self that you are!

Best Wishes,

Bexi

Spring Clean Yourself!

My first blog post here was to tell you my thoughts on the New Year and how we are all too harsh on ourselves at a time when the natural world is being slow and nurturing. Now the evenings are brightening and the temperature rising, this is a far better time to begin all those goals that most discarded after a week or two in January.  I’ve made a some big changes and I feel great for it, a fresh start in line with the season change!

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Here are a few ways we can take inspiration from nature to align ourselves with the change of season and create goals in a more natural way than the New Year…

 

  • Get outside! You knew this would be one of my top tips as I’m a huge advocate of spending time in nature and being outside. Being out in nature is proven to boost mood, endorphin levels and lower heart rate and blood pressure. This will make you more productive to achieve your goals but is so worth doing just to see the beauty of the world. See more health benefits here and get out there today!
  • Get your body going! If you don’t already, start shaking and waking your body up after the slower months of Winter. Start yoga, walking, dancing, swimming…whatever feels the best avenue for you. Just as the animals in hibernation are stirring from their nests, we too can break away from the slowness of winter and start to warm up for a more energetic time. Know that you don’t need  to join an expensive gym to get active though, all the suggestions above can be done at home or out in nature.
  • Create! Spring is a time of rebirth and new life and so a truer time for a new start than January. This is the best time to start new projects, dream up new plans, and flow with the energy of nature to guide you on your way! This is the time to create new works. My new creation for this time is to expand my music project into a full charity. I’m so glad I waited until now, instead of starting on the 1st January. I feel far more motivated and ready to do this now than two months ago. More info on the charity is here
  • Have a clearout! All the fallen leaves of winter are being recycled back into the earth ready to feed the growth of Spring and Summer and you can do the same in your home. Sort out old clothing that no longer suits and take it to a charity shop so someone else can find joy from it, cut up old towels to use as cleaning cloths,  start making more natural cleaning products by using things you already have (vinegar, bicarb, lemon, the peel from eaten oranges…) Wellnessmama Blog is great for tips on natural cleaning!
  • Connect with others! Spring is typically the main mating season in the natural world and whilst I’m not suggesting that you copy that precisely (unless you want to!!), it is a great time to reconnect with friends and family who you may have seen less of during the cold months and difficulty travelling due to storms and snow! Join community projects- garden and clean up work will be starting now and loads of sports activities will be getting going if that’s where your interests lie. Animal centres will be inundated now due to that mating season and will need foster homes, help with fundraising- anything you are most drawn to. Helping others will always benefit you as well and is the foundation for a beautiful world so get yourself involved!

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I hope you have a beautiful Springtime and that these tips helped on the way! I’m so excited for the changes I’m making and I know this was the right time to do them. Don’t take my word for it though, listen to your own instinct and follow the path that’s right for you. That may mean that January is a good time to get things started or that you may prefer to hold back until Summer when you feel fully rested. Whatever time you choose though, keep that Spring energy in mind, it is the time for revival so take that feeling and dance with it!

Best Wishes,

Bexi