Breathe, Digest, and Sleep

NewYearSalad

Breathing better, digesting better, and sleeping better are three things that Reiki seems to be particularly good at. How is this possible? As I readily admit, I don’t know exactly how Reiki works. But I can say that, as a general rule, a Reiki session helps people to relax. I’ve observed how the breath deepens, the face softens; people sigh, they swallow, and sometimes they fall asleep. Something about this practice appears to evoke the power of the parasympathetic nervous system–the “rest and digest” system that is so restorative for the body and mind.

We think of highly stressed people as being in flight or fight mode, but there is a third mode: freeze, the strategy of the rabbit. It strikes me that COVID-19 has put many of us into all three modes simultaneously. Irritability, insomnia, and panic attacks abound. If you are fortunate enough to have Reiki, you can self-practice. And you can share with others in your household, if they’re interested.

But many people don’t have Reiki in their home. So what can you do, right now, to help your body breathe, digest, and sleep better? There are options, even while sheltering in place and socially distancing.

BREATHE.
Meditation. You don’t have to sit on a cushion for an hour. You might try setting an alert for the start of every hour, and spend five minutes watching your breath. When you pay attention to your breath, you breathe better.
Exercise. When you move your body, you move the air in your lungs. You don’t have to run a marathon! Go for a brisk walk, dance in your living room, take the stairs.
Go outside. It is springtime–breathe it in.

DIGEST.
Meal planning. This can go either way. Some people I know say they are eating better than they were before shelter-in-place, because they have more time to cook. Others have been stress baking and eating cookies for breakfast. (Yep, that’s happened at my house.) Whichever direction you’re leaning in, healthy meals are a gift to your body now.
Fresh foods. Eat as many fresh veggies and fruits as you can–they are full of life-force, and add water to your diet, too. The Supergrain Salad above is a rainbow-on-a-plate dish that I fell in love with in Portland, Oregon. I have a few versions of my own!
Exercise. Moving your body moves your digestive system, too. And exercise encourages us to drink water, which keeps the digestive system hydrated.

SLEEP.
Exercise. Perhaps you detect a theme! The human body evolved to be on the move, not sitting in a chair. Who doesn’t sleep well after a long walk or a day in the garden?
Log out. Turn off tech gadgets (all of them) one hour before bed. Set an alarm if you need to. Read a paper book, take a bath, journal. The mental gears need time to wind down.
Relaaaaax into sleep. Consider going to bed a half hour earlier than you typically do. Once in bed, place your hands behind your head, in a looking-up-at-the-clouds position. Feel the weight of your skull settle heavily into the cradle of your hands. After a few minutes, place your hands over your heart. And a few minutes after that, if you’re still awake, rest your hands on your low belly. Breathe.

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