Pranayama: Breathing For Better Health
Pranayama, one of the oldest elements in classical yoga, if not the oldest, literally means “control of prana” Prana means “life force”. Prana is what differentiates a corpse from a living body. Yama means, “control”. One learns to control his or her vital energy or “life force” through control of the breath.
Pranayama is one aspect of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga System. This simply means “yoga with various limbs or aspects of practice”. This yoga system has eight distinct yet interdependent levels of practice and pranayama is stage four.
Patanjali originally separated the classical mode of yoga out of eclectic mixtures of theology and yoga by compiling 2500 years of various yoga techniques and approaches into a system that is now considered modern classical. This delineation of the classical mode is also known by several other names: Ashtanga, Raja, or simply Classical Yoga and in modern literature Patanjali is referred to as its founder.
According to Yogic theory, everything in the world moves because of the powers of the breath. Therefore, yogis found that by controlling their breath they could alter their consciousness, and in addition, heal themselves of diseases, remove mental obstructions and develop very high levels of concentration. Historically, many yoga groups have attributed so much importance to these respiratory disciplines that the other practices of yoga could be considered expendable if one just concentrated exclusively on the practice of pranayama.
Our modern day world requires us to live with extreme amounts of external sense stimuli: noise and air pollution, visual overload from TV’s and computers, our mental and emotional overload occurs from learning to tune out all of this to survive. Little attention is given to the breath when we are caught up in the challenges of daily living. We become shallow breathers as a result.
The goal of a pranayama practice is to learn to tune in to the great power that comes from within us, that power begins with the breath. The breath is what keeps us alive, literally, before food and water… first is the breath. We can learn to carry this practice into all aspects of daily life by simply “giving attention” to the patterns of our breath as we live our life.
Remember, there are many forms of the prananyama practice. This is a partial listing of some that can be used to develop the lung capacity, increase energy in the brain and body and promote relaxation. There is no right or wrong way, the important thing is to breath consciously as often as possible and fill up the ribcage in all directions, back, front, bottom and top.
Common Pranayama Practices from Classical Yoga
1.Basic Yoga Breath:
- Breathe in filling to the abdomen and then gradually expand the lower chest and the upper chest until the collarbones rise. Exhale from the upper chest, let the ribs collapse inward, and lastly deflate the abdomen, drawing it in to empty the lungs completely.
- (Variation) Keep a count, observing the length of the inhalation and exhalation. The throat may be contracted slightly as an aid to controlling the flow of the breath.
- (Variation) Lie on the back and place hands on belly to feel how this area inflates and deflated. Having the hand on the belly is also an aid in the sitting position.
2 Ujjayi (victorious breath)
a. Be aware of the sound and friction created by the air rubbing at a point in the throat. This point is at the back of the soft palate, where the uvula is located. There is a mild hissing sound because of the friction (like a Darth Vader from Star Wars breath).
b. Benefits of Ujjayi Breath are control over the breath and it is an aid in concentration.
3. Naddi Shuddi (alternate nostril breath)
a. This is the same as deep breathing, only through alternate nostrils. This breath balances the brain waves between the right and left hemispheres and stimulated the pituitary gland.
b. Simple directions –using the thumb and pinky fingers, hold one nostril closed then exhale and inhale through the same nostril. Switch nostrils and repeat
c. More advanced, inhale through one nostril then cover and exhale through other nostril alternating sides.
d. In the beginning, the count and ratio are not so important. In applying a count, each individual should judge his own capacity, and gradually aim for a 1:2 ratio (exhalation longer than inhalation) The quantity of air is the same for the inhalation as for the exhalation, but the breath leaves more slowly during the latter.
4. Kapalabhati (scull shining)
a. Five rapid forced expulsions of the breath.
b. Exhale fully on the last expulsion.
c. Then inhale fully.
d. Finally, exhale normally.
e. This increases energy in the body.
5. Bhastrika (bellows breath)
a The same as a, b, c, of Kapalabahati.
b After the full inhalation, retain the breath and lock the chin
c. Raise the chin and slowly exhale.
d. 20 to 30 seconds is should be the maximum retention in a beginning to intermediate practice
e. Advanced students can alternate the nostrils while having the rapid expulsions, switching nostrils about every 3 expulsions. This clears both nostrils
f. Persons with high blood pressure or heart problems should refrain from breath retention.
6. Brahmari (humming breath)
a. Have a deep breathing with a high-pitched hum on the exhalation.
b. Feel the vibration on the soft palate, at the center of the head, and going up from that spot to the top of the head.
c. Benefits of the Brahmari breath are for toning of the vocal chords and create sound vibrations for concentration.
7. Uiloma Breath (3 part hold breath)
a Inhale thru the nose and fill up the lower part of the abdomen 1/3 then pause
b. Keep inhaling and fill up the middle ribcage area 1/3 then pause
c. Keep inhaling and fill up the upper back and chest another1/3 till full
d. Exhale thru the nose slowly and evenly
e. Breathe normally then repeat
Should We Be Anxiety Free?
The pace of modern life seems to be faster than ever, and filled with anxiety for many of us. Anxiety is a state of arousal caused by a threat to well being. When we are anxious, we feel endangered or challenged in some way. This is a form of what we call “stress”. When we feel anxious, we feel tense and uneasy and we are ready to act or respond. There is “Distress” considered negative stress, and “Eustress” considered positive stress.
The famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead, wrote that our society needs a certain amount of anxiety to function properly. Psychological research suggests that stress up to a certain point is helpful in learning and performing certain tasks. Too much anxiety however, can disorganize our efforts or even paralyze us. On the flip side, too little anxiety we may not rouse ourselves and do the things that need to be done. It seems that different people can handle more or less stress than others. It is not so much the stress itself that causes problems, but the interpretation of the situation or stressful event.
Although our era has been called the “age of anxiety” Mead also found modern stress preferable to the terror, fright and hunger of simpler societies. With some mega frightening crises as possibilities, we may wonder how well of we are in our modern society. There are threats of nuclear Armageddon, massive changes in climate and ocean level because of global warming, water shortages and global financial crisis. Our world has become riskier and some might say you’re crazy not to be frightened. The choice between these two options is not appealing. Our era might also be called the “age of the tranquilizer” or the “age of designer neurosis”. We have created neurosis that require many to cope with the angst of daily living through the haze of a pill bottle. Pills of all kinds have been created, and help many, which are looking for relief from anxiety, fears and worries. but, if you are looking to stay away from pills, you might try adding some meditation or mind body fitness into you life to keep stress at bay.
The goal of mind/body fitness programs is to introduce “old ways” as “new ways” to combat anxiety or find peace of mind through relaxation, meditation and group experiences of various kinds. Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, are just a few examples of programs that have been integrated into mainstream fitness markets to meet the increasing demands.
Although we think anxiety is bad and try to avoid it at all costs, anxiety actually plays a useful role as a signal or moving force. If we let ourselves experience some anxiety it warns and directs us, it stirs and excites us and drives us on.
Personal growth is frequently accompanied by anxiety since we feel threatened whenever we leave safe and familiar ruts. Many people think that somehow they should be anxiety free, and that anxiety is “abnormal” and to be “normal” is to be relaxed, peaceful and happy all the time. Sounds pretty boring to me, I mean, doesn’t meaningful living involve some anxiety?
In small amounts much of the time and perhaps in bursts on occasion. A moderate level of anxiety, a tolerance for it, and an understanding of it…not a totally stress free life is as much as we should want or try to achieve.
Appreciating anxiety and its merits are part of the personal growth process. Anxiety prompts us to do what we need to do. We become anxious when we leave comfortable plateaus and begin ascents to higher reaches. Some of us fear fear, we become so anxious that we are worse off than we were before.
It is not the anxiety that is the enemy, it is our response to what causes the anxious feelings in the first place.
Fear and anxiety are often used interchangeably. Anxiety is really an emotion and fear is an idea. Fear is the idea that a particular situation or condition will produce the emotion anxiety. Where do these fears come from in the first place? Some fears appear to be fixated, they are childish fears we haven’t outgrown. Other fears are traumatic results of shocking experiences that have sensitized us to a particular event or condition.
One reason fear persists is usually because we avoid the feared situation, never learning that no harm is there.
Everyday life is filled with small terrors. We need to confront them and stare them down. We can learn to move through the fears to growth or else we live life in constant fight or flight reactions. Moving one step at a time and focusing on only that step is important in this process. Moving on to the next step with a feeling of accomplishment with each move. Moving step by step forward we can look backward amazed and proud of the distance we have come. This is what helps or confidence and self-esteem. It is a process of continuing movement.
Another fear is worry. Worry is fear of an anticipated event. Many events we worry about never happen. These are the “what ifs” that sometimes stop us dead in our tracks. As we fret about them, we foresee, foretaste and experience them to some degree. If our mind can imagine it our brain and body to some degree interprets it as a real event. Many times the worry is worse than what we worry about.
Many mind/body fitness programs help to control “run away thoughts” and “mind movies” by focusing on Present Moment Awareness, Breath, Movement, and Self Expression. This provides a safe space to deal with these issues that are common to all human beings. Learning to look at situations and find the blessing in disguise helps us to cope and appreciate what is happening as an opportunity for growth.
It is difficult in our society to believe that fear, anxiety, worry or anything that stings a bit can be of value. Nevertheless, in spite of our love of the sun, rainy days are important in the total scheme of things. All too often we are afraid to admit our anxiety, worry or fears. Often we compare ourselves to unrealistic heroes in the media and inflict unreasonable expectations upon ourselves.
It seems those who are willing to acknowledge their anxiety, turn out to be stronger than those who equate anxiety with cowardice are. Not only may they be mentally stronger, but healthier in body and spirit. Many positive steps in our life are accompanied by anxiety. Each time we extend ourselves further, accept a new responsibility, or affirm our independence we also feel a pressure of anxiety.
Sometimes anxiety will flash to warn us to pay attention or that something is amiss in our life. In essence, anxiety warns us that our relationship with ourselves is not all it should be. Seen in this light anxiety is no longer the fighting enemy that must be tranquilized out of sight at all costs, but a helpful reminder to come back to ourselves, our breath and our body. The body has an amazing way of helping us find center if we are willing to listen.
Stress and The Body
Stressful events whether physical or psychological, set off a series of chemical reactions in the body. As soon as a person perceives that something is stressful, the brain tells nerves to release adrenaline and related chemicals, sending quick energy to the muscles. The brain talks to the body in the language of neuropeptides. Neuropeptides allow cells to talk and communicate with each other.
A small part of the brain, the hypothalamus, sends a signal to the pituitary gland to start shipping a hormone called corticotrophin into the bloodstream. In turn, corticotrophin tells your adrenal glands; located atop the kidneys, to release more stress hormones called glucocorticoids. These stress hormones tell the body to dump sugar into the bloodstream, providing quick energy for an emergency sprint from danger. During an emergency these hormones also stop bodily processes not needed for immediate survival, such as digestion.
Stress hormones seem to affect a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which sits in the right and left halves just above the hypothalamus. The hippocampus plays a role in the formation of memories according to the Robert Sapolski, author of “Why Zebra Don’t Get Ulcers”. It is important to have memory formed in the brain because if you survive this stressful encounter you’ll want to remember it in order to avoid it again in the future. Memory sharpens during shocking or sensitizing events. It is our biology. That is why so many people can still recall where they were when they heard John Lennon died or where they were on 9/11.
The problem is not stress that happens once in a while. Stress once on a while is natural and helpful for us. The problem occurs when there is repeated stress. Stress overload and no physical and emotional outlet in sight. When we experience repeated stressful events the powerful hormones that were originally designed to help us pound the brain like shore breaking waves. Over time the beneficial effect of stress hormones are reversed. Memory worsens, energy levels drop and other health problems emerge.
Even a few days of exposure to high levels of stress hormones can weaken the hippocampus brain cells, or (neurons) leaving them more likely to die if their oxygen supply is interrupted, which happens during a stroke or heart attack. Weeks of high exposure can wither fragile connections between neurons in that part of the brain.
Studies of rats placed under stress show that the brain cells of the hippocampus die after years of elevated stress levels. But if the high levels stop, the shriveled connections between the neurons grow back. The hippocampus has a unique ability to grow replacement brain cells. The adult brain is more versatile than we ever thought. We have an amazing biology!
Stress and The Brain
It is possible that stress over a lifetime wears out the hippocampus and hinders its ability to tell the hypothalamus to stop calling for stress hormones. As a result more Glucocorticoids flood the bloodstream, causing additional degradation of the hippocampus and wrecking the stress mechanism. Thus, people who experience more stress over a lifetime may have brains more aged than their relaxed peers may.
Some researchers don’t believe that everyday traffic jams and office politics can cause the types of brain damage seen in the studies of the hippocampus. But even if more stress doesn’t cause brain damage, traumatic stress and depression still affect a significant number of people. Depression affects almost 10 million adults nationwide every year, according to the American Psychiatric Association. One in four women and one in 10 men can expect to develop this ailment, which causes stress filled feelings of sadness and hopelessness, during their lifetime.
Stress, Thought Patterns and Heart Disease
Cardiologists have long wondered why people with heart disease seem particularly vulnerable to stress. One researcher, Robert Soufer of the Positron Imaging Center in Connecticut is basing his theory on pictures of brains in action to suggest these people think differently than healthy people, putting them at a special risk. He says we use all the different parts of the brain to handle stress. His study looked into the brain of people with heart disease while they endured mental stress testing. He had 10 heart patients and six healthy men complete a series of math questions while a positron emission tomography (PET) device took pictures of their brains.
During testing, the men were asked to steadily subtract seven from a starting number. The questioners urged the men to speed up their responses until they made a mistake, then errors were corrected in a harsh tone, which provided an element of harassment.
Heart disease patients compared to normal patients seemed to use more of their left side of the brain than the right side.
The 10 patients displayed hyperactivity in left-brain parts associated with mental calculation. According to the study, three of them suffered a decreased delivery of oxygen rich blood to the heart during the testing; a condition called mental ischemia. Blood flow is decreased to portions of the brain associated with pain perception.
There seems to be no warning system to these people of heart damage. Between 3 million and 4 million Americans suffer silent ischemic episodes according to the American Heart Association. Previous research suspects that behavior or a tendency toward anger and hostility predisposed some people to mental ischemia. It seems our private thoughts and aggravations have a direct affect on the entire body, either a helpful or hurtful way.
Taking these bits of research into consideration, the benefits of exercise and the integration of relaxation techniques, mediation, breathing exercises, body awareness, expressive emotional exercises, such as Bioenergetics, may be beneficial to combat or prevent the overload of stress hormones on a daily basis.
MUSIC, SOUND & “ENTRAINMENT”
As teachers of exercise to music, we understand on a basic level that music influences the mood, motivation, and the emotions of our students. We spend time selecting the proper music for our students based on the type of class taught, the type of people in the class and our own personal likes and dislikes. Innately we know that music is what moves them.
Every instructor has experienced the feeling of the whole group moving together in unison with our directions and the flow of the music. Consider the example of two metronomes in the same room beating at different rhythms. Eventually, of their own accord, they will begin to beat in synchrony with each other. Pir Vilayat Khan poetically defined this phenomenon as “entrainment”. He wrote about how the voice can bring us into harmony with the universe, “If the sound generated by the vocal cords into the vibratory network of the universe has the faculty of tuning one, it is because it links one with the cosmic symphony.”
This excerpt from “Sounds of Healing’ by Mitchell L. Gaynor M.D. hints at what intuitively instructors who use music in classes have known for many years:
“Entrainment is a process by which powerful rhythmic vibrations of one object are projected upon a second object with a similar frequency, thereby causing that object to vibrate in resonance with the first object. In terms of sound and healing, sound waves may entrain the human organism causing us to vibrate in resonance with those waves in a variety of interconnected ways. On one level so called sonic entrainment may alter our energetic states, leading to physiologic transformations, often very subtle. On another level, sonic entrainment can affect us emotionally, which can thus influence us on a cellular level. Numerous studies have shown that the degree to which stress, pessimism and feelings of hopelessness depress every aspect of our immune system. Through the process of entrainment, sound can transform negative, repressed emotions into a state of psychological equanimity that has direct and immediate effects on our physiology. Sonic entrainment can also restore harmony between our innermost selves-our essence- and the universe, thus reawakening our spiritual consciousness.”
Research over the last two decades has revealed the myriad of ways in which human physiology responds to sound and musical stimuli through the process of entrainment:
- When Beethoven’s fifth Symphony was played for twenty-two college students during a music appreciation class, noticeable changes were recorded in their heart rates that directly correlated with the changes in the temp of the first movement.
- Researcher Johannes Kneutgen demonstrated that babies who fell asleep to the sound of lullabies began to breathe in rhythm to the music.
- In a series of studies that examined how music affects blood pressure, pulse rate, breathing and other aspects of the autonomic nervous system, participants’ heart rates were found to respond to both the volume and the rhythm of the music. And in some cases the heart rate or respiratory rhythm actually synchronized with the beat of the music.
The following table shows an approximate relationship between brain state, brain activity, and beats per minute with possible class activities:
Brain State Cycles Per Second Music Beats Per Minute Activities
Beta 13-30 120-150 Cardio/Step/Interval
——– ——- 90-120 Strength Routines
Alpha 8-13 60-65 Learning/Reflective
Theta 4-9 55-60 Creativity/Ah Ha’s/ Pre sleep
Delta under 6 under 55 Deep Sleep
Fitness Programs of the Future
In terms of the learning process, studies on music, learning and relaxation have been of interest to schoolteachers, massage, wellness practitioners and now fitness professionals. The pioneering research of Dr.Georgi Lovanov turned our attention to the effects of Baroque music. The results: most people learn better when they are relaxed. In the last two decades, sound education has supported the use of other types of music, in addition to the classics, to be effective for learning and relaxation. Stephen Halpern Ph.D. has been researching and producing music for over thirty years. His music and research have given more insight into other styles of music and their effects on relaxation and learning.
Most music is intended to stimulate rather than to relax. It literally makes your nervous system more nervous. Due to the physical law of entrainment an external rhythm will automatically override one’s internal rhythm or heartbeat. This means that music with a fast beat will inevitably cause the heart to beat faster. By contrast, music with a slower beat should cause relaxation. While this is true to an extent, the research shows that music with a beat no faster than 60 bpm is best. Relaxation implies a slower regular heart beat. Most people cannot achieve a meaningful level of relaxation when their heart is beating fast.
Many people experience varying levels of distraction. For purposes of relaxation, it is important to use music that is non-rhythmical and free from lyrics. The brain seems to be distracted by lyrics and tends to cause the opposite of relaxation, distraction and excitement. Of course since we are all unique, everyone will respond differently to different styles of music. We also need to consider the effects of our music choices and words on our students’ subconscious minds. Are we moving them toward their goals or away from them? Ultimately it is their choice to make changes or not, but they have put us into an influential position because of their trust in us. So we need to provide the best possible learning and growing environment for them.
The goals of fitness programs of the future will inevitably include behavior modification techniques. The quickest way to the subconscious is to fine-tune the mind for alpha brain wave frequency. This is where we are relaxed and highly suggestible. In order for fitness instructors to fully utilize this amazing research in their work we must educate ourselves and our clients about why we are doing what we are doing.
Because we tend to entrain to the beat of the music, music can help us to encourage brain states and moods for various activities. Music with the 60 beats per minute encourages the heart rate to slow to about that rate, and the brain cycles move toward 8-13 cycles per second, or a state from beta (moving) to alpha (learning). This is where we want our class to be if we have some new information that needs to be learned, behavior modification, or setting up a reflective activity for our participants.
Considerations for Students and Clients
Often we teach back-to-back classes with little time and attention to welcome and farewell music. Music playing when entering the classroom can set the mood for what is to come. If clients are coming to class after a full day of work, through peak traffic, and difficult commutes, music can soothe the frazzle and begin to diffuse tensions. Music when leaving a classroom can be uplifting, reminding people of the joyful experience they had in your class. Welcome and farewell music is generally lively, dynamic and warm. Since music sets the tone, try it out and see if it creates that mood for you.
Sound in the Classroom
Music is not the only sound that affects our emotional and mental states. Sound has been used for centuries in ceremonial healing and prayer rituals. For example, Buddhist monks have used “singing bowls” to accompany their chanting and meditation. Mantak Chia used the “healing sound” to align various energy centers of the body. Yogis use sound in chakra meditations. We have all heard the universal sound of the “OM”. This is also called “toning”. Toning is vocalizing vowel sounds to change the vibrations of the body. In Bioenergetics we also use sounds and words to release tension in our bodies.
All of these modalities and more can positively affect our minds as well as our bodies. They are united by certain underlying principles, most of which is the tendency toward harmony in nature, which leads us back to entrainment.
Sound is a manifestation of breath, and breath is fundamental to life. All of our cellular functions require oxygen. Therefore those little “whoops” and “ya’s” in our classes are helping our students breathe better. In a way we are creating our own form of “toning” for the 21st century.
Do anything to experiment with sound and with freeing the voice. Be creative and add clapping or foot tapping, bells or drums. Use toning or sound to release and cleanse. Moaning and groaning are cleansing sounds that naturally occur when aches and pains are being released. Sometimes I give my students a “b—h and moan break” and allow them all to let loose one long moan. It adds humor and releases tension.
High pitched sounds; even screams can help break up energy blockages that have led to emotional and physical armoring. Release the sound you feel from within. Most often you’ll end up with a room full of laughing students…and we all know how healthy laughter is for the body and mind!
You can also provide a soothing and relaxing experience for your clients by humming. Humming can calm the nervous system and may help one to breathe more deeply. Singing or chanting words of encouragement (affirmations) are also fun ways to soothe and relax.
Here are some “toning” fundamentals:
Inhale through your nose and release through your mouth while making one long sustained sound. You can stand or sit, just be sure your spine is straight and abdomen unobstructed. If you are standing, you can imagine the sound coming up from your feet. Relax your jaw, and when you make a sound just let the jaw hang open.
Tone on a vowel of your choice and hold it as long as you can. (A E I O U)
Tone on a syllable of the same note (OM, LAM, or HA)
It takes some practice and adjustment for most people to work with sound. Many of us are taught not to make a scene or make a spectacle of ourselves. At first, students may feel self-conscious. You may feel self-conscious also. It is normal because of our western conditioning. The more you experiment, study and teach utilizing these practices, the easier it will be for your students to experiment. Trust your instincts and create a safe space for them to work with sound.
How Can We Change Habits And Patterns
Will power alone may not be enough to accomplish goals. Any new habit pattern requires subconscious cooperation. A conscious decision to change may be undermined by a subconscious belief in failure. Often we make conscious decisions that do work in our lives. Unfortunately if there is conflict between the conscious and the subconscious mind, the subconscious will usually win.
Hypnosis or Self Hypnosis is an effective way to create change at the subconscious level. Hypnosis is no different than Guided Imagery or Visualization practices, except that the goal of hypnosis is to become more conscious of our conscious mind. All of our present habits are the results of past subconscious programming from parents, teacher’s peers, television, movies and so on. This type of programming can either pull us toward our goals and successes or push us further away from them. Of course this is all dependent on how these beliefs are presented to us in the first place. We can bypass all that and learn to take charge of our own subconscious programming through hypnosis.
The first step in success through hypnosis is to accept responsibility for where we are in our thoughts and actions. Uncovering belief systems within us are included in accepting responsibility for our life. Learning to take responsibility for our thoughts and understanding that we create our reality is a priority. Ultimately hypnosis will work if you are willing to work on yourself. By the use of hypnosis you can face old negative programs (ways of thinking) and replace them with new thinking. In that, this is also the development of a loving and respectful relationship with yourself.
Hypnosis is a relaxed state of mind we enter daily when our brain wave frequencies slow to the range called “alpha”. We pass through this state on our way to and from sleep everyday. The conscious mind is relaxed as well the physical body as in meditation. When the conscious mind is relaxed the subconscious mind is easily accessible. It could also be called “guided meditation”. The power is not with the person leading the hypnosis or guides imagery but rather with the minds of each student or client as they enter into hypnosis.
Each day we enter four different mental states. Through the use of an EEG (electroencephalograph), we can identify the brain wave patterns scientifically. One state, called Beta, is like high gear, and we spend most of our waking hours in this state. It is responsible for logic, reason, and decision-making. As our brain waves slow down we enter Alpha State. This is the state for both recall of memories and storage of new information. We are very relaxed and creative in this state. This is an excellent sate for accelerated learning. This state is similar to how you may be when totally engrossed in a movie or TV show. The states below are called Theta the Dream State, and Delta, deep sleep.
Very often people believe that hypnosis puts them under someone else’s control, as in a stage show of hypnosis. The truth is the power is not with the facilitator, but with the person who enters the hypnotic state. Actually, in stage hypnosis the hypnotist prefaces the show by stating that you cannot be made to do anything against your religious or moral beliefs. If you accept that at face value and enter hypnosis, then you do accept the unspoken suggestion that you will do any thing else. The main thing that makes stage hypnosis successful is the volunteers expect to have fun. Even the shyest person can carry out suggestions on stage, be a part of the show and pass the responsibility to the hypnotist. Also, the volunteers believe they are under the hypnotists control during the show…they get what they believe.
The Five Methods of Subconscious Programming
Repetition is simply to practice. Repetition works and it takes time. The amount of time varies from person to person based on other subconscious beliefs about the ability to acquire a new skill or habit.
Desire to Identify (Association) ~
Peer pressure, mentors, group identification represent the desire to identify. It is neither good nor bad. The important thing is to give attention so that you can be careful about monitoring the input when you choose to identify with others. This is a common method used along with repetition and emotion when advertisers are creating commercials.
Ideas presented by a person held in high esteem or of authority often go straight into the subconscious mind. When we give credibility to any outside authority, negative or positive programming is equally powerful. For example, if a teacher tells a third grader they will do well, they usually do. Conversely, if the teacher tells the student he will do poorly, he will. Authority is great subconscious motivator.
Emotion seems to be the most powerful of the methods. Emotion triggers brain responses immediately. We should be careful to give attention to our thoughts when we experience any kind of emotion. Avoid the use of negative emotion for motivation (such as fear or punishment, typical military style). It is easier to produce a positive result from positive emotion. Be conscious, feel your feelings and make a choice. They can run you or serve you.
Alpha State ~
Alpha state is a brain wave state that is open for new subconscious programming. Hypnosis takes you to directly the Alpha state and is the easiest of the five methods to use for attaining goals. Visualizing or creative daydreaming is one of the strategies used to map out a path toward achieving goals with hypnosis. Hypnosis is also beneficial for gaining control over emotions. Since mental practice and pictures are used with hypnosis, it becomes easier to be aware of our thoughts when emotional overload occurs. In hypnosis you can learn new productive ways of handling these emotions to stay physically and mentally healthy.
Key to Effective HypnoFit Suggestions
Speech is the direct root to the brain. Suggestion signifies the process of controlled alteration on one’s actions and reactions through thoughts or objects. Suggestion is a direct route for the conveyance of an idea. Suggestion is the vehicle, which all-hypnotic control travels. To a large degree we are being hypnotized constantly. Any time we are under emotional strain, surprised, shocked or fatigued we are in a highly suggestible state. Hypnosis dissolves barriers and creates new pathways for implementation of new ideas or habit patterns.
The most common methods of habit pattern change or learning anything for that matter is through repetition, association and emotion. Any time we repeat information over and over we eventually remember it, if not consciously then unconsciously. Every-time you remember a jingle from the radio or a song especially ones you don’t like, it is because of the three methods. For example, the song was played on the radio over and over again, repetition, you didn’t like it, emotion took over, and you associated it with other feelings that were unpleasant. The more you try to place it out of your mind the more it comes back. That is a very common way that the mind works.
It is more pleasant and enjoyable to change habits and learn when the suggestive state is positive. Always use positive words. The words we choose should conger up a mental image in the mind (association). Stay away from words that are negative. Give “do” messages instead of “don’t” messages. When we give “do” messages we reinforce the idea of the new behavior. When we give “don’t” messages we reinforce the idea of what we are trying to change, thus we keep recreating the pattern even when we are trying to change it.
When the mind has two conflicting ideas it will usually support the negative ideas. For example, when you say to yourself, “I won’t think of negative things today”, you will immediately think of those things. Or if you say to your clients, “don’t think about stress, or worries or anything that you left at the office”, the mind jumps quickly to those things and negate the original intention. It would be more effective to say, “Imagine all the things about this day that make you feel good”, then give examples, “for example, imagine how wonderful it feels to be working out your strong, healthy body today”.
Always use present tense. Avoid using future tense. The subconscious mind is concerned with the present and takes things literally. Even if the conscious mind knows you aren’t 20 pounds lighter, the subconscious mind does not know. For example, it is best stated like this, “Imagine how you now look 20 pounds lighter, feel how your clothes are loose around your body, notice how much more energy you have now”. Instead of “You are becoming 20 pounds lighter and soon your clothes will be loose around your body and you will have so much more energy”. It seems like a similar request, but the subconscious mind is what we are working on, it needs present tense and now is the time always.
Always use direct images. For example, as you are leading a push up in class, say, “Imagine your chest and arms are so strong that you are pushing the floor away from you. It is so easy because you are consistent in your training”.
Use metaphorical images (universal and personal). Universal metaphors are analogies that everyone can relate to, like the sun, trees, and butterflies. Personal metaphors are those that relate to the occupation and interests of the client. For example, auto repair for a mechanic.
Create a key work or phrase and repeat it frequently. This is called an anchor or trigger. Let yourself repeat it over and over again. The mind needs repetition. Avoid works like “try” or “should”, use, “effortless”, “easy”, “fun” instead. Deliver your suggestions in an exciting, animated, confident, and enjoyable tone of voice. Deliver suggestions as you were telling an exciting story.
Anchoring is an essential part of giving post workout suggestions. An anchor causes your client to remember every detail of the suggestion at exactly those times when they need help the most. Anchoring can be done with particular events, “every time the phone rings” or behaviors, “every time you get in your car” or feeling states, “every time you feel angry” or physical responses, “every time your hands become sweaty”. Use anchors all through your classes to remind students of how to apply the information you present in class into their life. Eventually the class becomes a part of your client’s lifestyle as well.
When doing relaxation, guided imagery or mediations, you are really doing hypnosis with your clients. When they are in an alpha brain wave state then they are most suggestible. It is essential to understand the part of the mind you are actually communicating with. Always observe your clients closely to determine the depth of the trance. If you notice emotional processing, begin to lighten up on the emotional content of the material. One person’s fears are another person’s pleasures. If an image of floating on a raft makes one person relax, you can be certain that another student will be paralyzed with water fears!
Always give options and rooms for change. Notice breathing, facial relaxation and expression as well as allover bodily relaxation responses. Be ready to change if what you are doing is not working. Deepening the relaxation can be done by combining a number of different methods or through the repetition of one method. As a general rule remember to maintain a relaxed confident tone of voice. Speak slowly and gradually decrease the tempo. Gradually decrease the tone, but make sure that the volume of your voice is heard by all.
Always make sure that clients are comfortable, warm and remove any pesky distractions or include them into the relaxation. For example, if you are in a space and a dog is barking in the background, begin the session by calling attention to the distraction as a part of “what is going on” and then move forward. Always stay in touch with what is going on in the environment you are working in.
When ending the session always remove all unwanted suggestions. For example, say, “take a moment to acknowledge how good you feel now, if there is any excess tensions or thoughts whirling around in the mind, imagine them now releasing from your body on the next exhalation, or imagine a giant magnet under the floor pulling from you what you wish to release”.
Count upward to bring them back, increase the cadence, tempo, and bring excitement back to your voice. Give suggestions for normal waking awareness. For example, say, “allow your body to move, wiggle your fingers and toes.” Have them become aware of the present time and location. Notice sensory detail in the room around you. The feeling of the body rested on the mat, the gentle breeze in the air, etc. Have them slowly open their eyes and gaze for a few moments on the ceiling or whatever is in front of their eyes.
Say things like, “you are able to return to this state easily, whenever it is appropriate.
You find it easy to remember everything you need to remember, and you awake feeling alert and refreshed”.
Waking Hypnosis and Waking Suggestion
Waking Hypnosis is when hypnotic effects are achieved without the trance or relaxation sate. In every case it involves a bypass of the critical faculty and the implanting of selective thinking. For example, in a room full of people, one person cracks a fresh egg open, and says “this smells rotten” and they make a funny face, and they convince all the other people in the room to smell the egg and by that simple suggestion made that the egg is rotten, soon all the people in the room believe that the egg is rotten.
If a person is in a position of authority, like leading an exercise class, and the instructor confidently states, “this exercise is working your abs”. Clearly it may be working something else but because the instructor states it, it is accepted as truth, bypassed the critical factor, thus it is a form of waking hypnosis. This happens every time an instructor leads a class or trains a client!
Waking suggestion is a suggestion given in the normal state of consciousness that does not precipitate a waking state of hypnosis. For example, when one person in a room yawns, then suddenly another and another until the whole room full of people are yawning. We have all seen this happen at least once in our lives. This seems to happen all the time in our daily life as we move in and out of the alpha brain wave state.
As a rule we are just more suggestible at certain times than others. Suggestibility increases during alpha state, but when an idea is firmly planted in the mind of another, with confidence, and the idea is what the person wants to believe, “this diet pill will work”, the person will believe it is true even if it is not. That is why what we say and how we say it is so important. We are using hypnosis in subtle and effective ways every time we are leading a class, or personal training a client.
Think about that and let me know what you think. Mahalo Claudia
I started teaching the airy fairy, woo woo stuff in my fitness classes over 25 years ago. I can remember a time when people would walk straight out of my exercise classes the minute I mentioned we would start the warm up with “Stomping and Screaming” or do some Yoga and Visualization for the cool down. Thank goodness that has finally started to change. Mind/Body Fitness is finally in the mainstream. People ask me all the time, “What is Mind/Body fitness?”, “Is it Yoga?”, “is it Pilates?” and “What makes it different from regular exercise?”
It takes the brain to move a muscle, so is all exercise then Mind/Body Exercise? It all depends on your outlook. The technical definition of mind/body fitness or mindful exercise is: Physical exercise executed with a profoundly, inwardly directed focus.
There are several common components to most mind/body fitness programs.These include:
The Mental Component: Exercise with a non-judgmental and non-competitive component. The exercise experience is process oriented rather than goal oriented.
The Proprioceptive Awareness Component: Exercise focused on actual muscle and movement sensation or kinesthetic awareness.
The Breath Component: Exercise focused on consciously controlling breathing. The breath is used to increase awareness of energy in the body, or to relax the body.
The Alignment or Form Awareness Component: Exercise in which the focus is in a disciplined movement pattern or a particular spinal alignment.
The Energy-Centric Component: This refers to exercise forms that involves perception of the movements flow and flow of one’s intrinsic energy or vital life force (also known as “prana” or “chi”).
The benefits of Mind/Body Fitness are what make this growing exercise so popular. Individuals today are looking for quick results from the time they spend exercising, and usually, most people do not have a lot of time. The integration of aerobics, resistance training, (using weights), yoga, tai chi and other modalities provide one with a balanced work-out, targeting several “desired results” at once. For example, aerobics works the heart muscle, improving cardiovascular health. Resistance training builds muscle mass, creating more space for the body to store energy rather than fat. Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi train the mind to connect with the body movements and improve balance, concentration, focus, and breathing ability.
The benefits strengthen one’s ability to perform every day tasks with greater ease and confidence, whether the task is job-related or related to an individual’s personal life activities, i.e. errands, housework, hobbies, sex or sports. Mind/Body Fitness requires one to be in the present moment, allowing one’s thoughts to connect with one’s body. So, as the body performs, the mind acknowledges what the body is doing. It is a neurological event resulting in a conscious awareness of your physical being.
Wow! What an amazing day on Maui. I love winter time on Maui, not just because it is warmer than anywhere else on the mainland, but because the island is buzzing with tourists and because it is Humpback Whale Season! The air is crisp and clear, clean and fresh with vibrant energy, what Hawaiians call “mana” kind of like the term “chi” that subtle energy you can feel when life abounds and everything is flowing naturally and effortlessly.
If you can’t be here to enjoy this feeling of “mana” on Maui, you can replicate it by practicing deep breathing, meditation, visualization and movement.
Try simply standing still and closing your eyes, visualize the crisp blue sky, clean warm ocean and fresh fragrant air lightly blowing on your face.
Take some deep breaths and simply bend your knees and shift your weight to your right and left legs with each breath, allow your arms start swinging along as you rotate your torso from side to side with each shift of weight from right to left. Stay focused on your breath and do this for 5 minutes. You will feel refreshed and full of energy.
Welcome to HynoFitMaui, much more to come ….