When depression is present, we often feel isolated and alone. A beautiful day can make us feel even more separated, because we sense that the rest of the world is enjoying it, and we are not. I know of no better way to sense our interconnectedness than to begin a breathing practice. Aside from the well-documented health benefits, we can stop a ruminative chain of thoughts or a negative mood state in its tracks with one of many simple yogic breathing exercises called pranayama.
Trauma, loss and the everyday hassles of daily life can create constriction in the physical and emotional body. As we constrict, we begin to close off from others. Some of us carry this sense of separation throughout our lives in the form of depression. Yogic breathing can begin to break through that wall of separation, perhaps just a chink at first, through which we begin to feel less separate and alone. A simple breath can give us a felt sense of our connection to the energy of the cosmos. Einstein once said that we are operating under the optical delusion of our separateness and that our separateness is lethal.* When we breathe mindfully, that delusion dissolves and we begin to see clearly again that we are intimately and eternally connected to the energy of the universe and to each other. What is authentic within us is given voice.
When we breathe consciously, we may quiet the clatter of thoughts so that mindfulness naturally arises. Try this simple breath when the busy mind needs a respite:
Ocean-Sounding Victory Breath (Ujjayi)
This breath, jokingly referred to as Darth Vader Breath, is soothing to the central nervous system, even as it calms the mind and supports greater focus for meditation.
- To begin, inhale through the nostrils to the count of four with a slight constriction at the back of the throat, so that the breath is audible, like a light snoring sound.
- Exhale through the nostrils for four counts, maintaining the snoring sound.
- The breath is slow, and deep. Feel the breath expanding the belly, the ribcage, and then the upper chest.
- On the exhalation, pull the abdomen in and up to empty the lungs completely.
- Sense the breath at the back of the throat.
- Listen to your breath. Does it sound like a wave gently rolling across pebbles? Imagine your favorite pebbly beach. Does it sound like an infant’s snore? Let it be like a lullaby to yourself—perhaps a younger you.
To hear other similar practices download the Breathe to Beat the Blues CD.
*Calaprice, A. (2005). The new quotable Einstein. Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, p. 109