In my last post, the Calming, Smiling Practice, we considered how a smile can help you to regain sovereignty over yourself. The practice involves smiling at difficult feelings such as fear, anxiety, or uncertainty, knowing that you are more than your fear. In this post I will share with you a longer Breathe and Smile Meditation, which is adapted from the Sagittarius chapter of my forthcoming book, Yoga by the Stars.
It's important to say that smiling practice is very different from "positive thinking". We are not pretending everything's OK and ignoring our feelings. Rather we are lovingly acknowledging and attending to our feelings, and smiling, in the same way that you might smile to comfort a crying child. A smile relaxes you and also allows room for other more joyful feelings to arise.
The Breathe and Smile Meditation
Sometimes we approach our meditation practice with such intensity that we forget to cultivate an attitude of joyfulness. The Breathe and Smile Meditation allows you to maintain a clear, focused attention whilst at the same time joyfully lightening up.
This meditation can be done sitting on the floor, in a chair, or lying down in Savasana. Allow 10 minutes.
Find yourself a comfortable position, either sitting or lying. Become aware of your body, particularly noticing which parts are in contact with the floor or your support. If you notice any discomfort in your body, be aware of it without immediately trying to fix it, notice any sensations associated with the discomfort and how they change from breath to breath. Notice which parts of your body already feel relaxed, comfortable and at ease.
Become aware of the natural flow of the breath. Notice where in your body you are most aware of the movement of the breath. Perhaps you feel it at the nostrils as the air enters and leaves the body. Or perhaps you can sense it in the chest, or the belly. Wherever you feel it most clearly allow your awareness to settle there for a few breaths.
Next picture something or someone that makes you smile. Perhaps it is one of your kids, or a grandchild, a pet, your best friend, or a beautiful landscape. Allow your lips to relax into a smile; notice how a smile relaxes so many of the facial muscles. Imagine that the smile is spreading through your body; your eyes are smiling; the back of your throat is smiling; the smile expands across your chest; your belly is smiling. If any part of your body needs soothing, imagine that part of your body is relaxing into a smile.
Return your awareness again to the natural flow of your breath. Particularly be aware of the out-breath, which is the part of the breath associated with relaxation. Each time you breathe out, feel yourself relaxing into a half-smile. A half-smile is that gentle smile that you see on the face of the Buddha. Inhale: exhale half-smile. Carry on breathing and smiling over a few more breaths.
Now imagine that the air that you breathe comes from a vast ocean of love. With each inhale you draw love into yourself, and with each exhale give love back to the world. Inhale: love. Exhale: love. Carry on for a few more breaths and then let it go.
Notice what effect this meditation has had upon you. In what way do you feel different now to how you felt at the start of the meditation?
To conclude become aware of your body; noticing any sensations associated with the contact between your body and the floor or your support; feel a connection to the earth beneath you. Become aware of your surroundings. Do any movements you need to do to wake yourself up, including a good stretch. Resolve to stay in touch with your inner smile as you go about your day today.
In my next post I will share with you the Ten Mindful Movements which also incorporate the breathing and smiling practice.
Jilly Shipway, sharing seasonal yoga ideas and inspiration with you through the year...
Coronavirus: Finding Peace in Troubled Times
The next few weeks look set to be a challenging time as the world tries to find a way through and out of this coronavirus crisis.
Many of you will be self-isolating at home, so over the next few weeks I will regularly post simple, accessible yoga and mindfulness techniques to help you find your calm place in the midst of the storm. I will also post short, simple yoga practices for you to do at home.
Please consult the expert advice in your own country on keeping yourself safe and well during the pandemic.
Please feel free to share ideas and resources that you find in my blog, but please do acknowledge me and my website as their source. Thanks!
Disclaimer: if you have any concerns about your health or suitability to do yoga, please consult a medical professional before attempting any of the yoga routines in this blog.