I want to speak to you about breath.
First let’s begin with a story…
Soft rain is falling, seeping slowly into our African soil.
“This is what we want!”
Chris Goodman, our land-care manager and permaculture champion, is surveying the steady flowing Sand River from Varty Deck with a look of intense satisfaction.
For the past week a gentle rain has been falling with a slow consistency between the odd downpour after the skies have flashed and thundered.
There truly is nothing quite like an African summer storm. The energy changes in the atmosphere as skies darken and the light changes. An illuminated darkness falls.
Before the rain comes down the heat and humidity intensify and you feel a rising pressure in the air. Then the thundering symphony begins and the heavens light up. After the beautiful release of the storm the magic starts. The earth truly sings. Bird song is louder and so is the hum of insects whose trills and chirps rise in volume. Everything buzzes and teems with life. Termites take their first and last flight filling the air making for a dreamscape.
The simple majestic power of rain.
“Rain, whose soft architectural hands have power to cut stones and chisel to shapes of grandeur the very mountains” ~ Henry Ward Beecher
Back on Varty Deck... “Why do you say that Chris?”… Be careful of asking our land manager a question; you might still be standing there an hour later!
And this is where I learnt about water tables and flooding and good rainfall and bad rainfall and soil erosion and the need for swales – glorious swales – and all things to do with earth and water.
What you want is a slow saturating rainfall so the water table slowly rises; this allows aquifers below the water table to fill as future stores in times of drought. The earth has time to absorb the rain. If there is sudden heavy rainfall we will be in danger of flood, earth erodes and there is damage to the land.
We too can be easily saturated like the soil and consequently eroded. Especially in these times of heightened anxiety. But if we take each day’s trials and live in the present moment, absorbing the trials with a practice of mindful discipline and breath, we become awake to the immediate now or as spiritual author Richard Rohr puts it – the Naked Now. We can see this mindful practice of breathing as a swale of sort. Swales are shallow, broad and vegetated channels that are purposely designed and placed to store and convey precious runoff and remove pollutants naturally. Chris has been building them all over the Londolozi land in preparation of rainfall to channel and best utilize the rainfall we receive.
When we take time to control our breath for mindful reflection we create new channels of productive unharmful thought in our brain. Explained by neuroplasticity, the brain is able to change and reorganise through neurons making new connections. Despite what we may at times feel we always have the ability to change and grow. It is proven that yoga , meditation and breathwork assist greatly in reducing stress on the body. Allowing us to easier process whatever comes at us and be less reactive.
Benefits of Breathwork
- When we breathe optimally, we shift out of inflammatory states our immune system improves. We heal faster and recover quicker.
- Through optimizing oxygenation of the cells there is a prevention of the buildup of toxins and inflammation in the body.
- Relief from stress – lowers cortisol (stress hormone) we learn to self-regulate with breathwork
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves heart rate variability
- Improves resilience
- Boots attention span – can decrease the size of the amygdala (part of the brain responsible for triggering fight or flight) thus increasing our prefrontal cortex (part of brains that helps us to engage in complex thought)
- Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Improves physical functions by helping transform unhealthy thinking and feeling patterns that create stress and sickness in the body.
Instead of falling into negative thought at an unpleasant reality take a moment for breath.
Here is a ‘swale’ for your brain. A relaxing breath technique to incorporate into your day when feeling overwhelmed.
- Find a comfortable seat or lie down
- Take a slow breath in through your nose for a count of 4
- Feel the belly rise and ribs expand
- Hold the breath for 7 counts
- Exhale and release the breath through the mouth for a count of 8
- Repeat for a minimum of 3 rounds
Let’s keep building our self ‘swales’ and watch how our personal landscape transforms.
The rain has stopped and the river level has lowered but Chirs is still smiling and Londolozi is still green and glorious in the naked now…