Five years ago, if you would've asked me if I had a daily meditation practice, I would have laughed at you.
Sure, I went to yoga class, but meditation was not something that I practiced on a regular basis. And to be quite honest, I always looked at it as kind of “hippie dippy.”
But now, after a few years of health struggles and seeing how big of an impact it truly can play on my health, I rarely go a day without it.
Why is meditation beneficial for psoriatic disease?
Meditation is a holistic treatment for our body. It calms our body and allows it to relax, instead of staying in fight or flight mode. It positively impacts our health by allowing our body processes to work more efficiently.
Did you know that research has even shown that it impacts the immune system in a beneficial way? Psoriatic arthritis patients have an overactive immune system and can tremendously benefit from treatments that help calm it down. Meditation has proven to do that!
There are many different ways that we can meditate.
We can sit on our mats focusing on our breath, we can chant, we can focus on an object or sound, or we can simply be mindfully aware of what is going on around us. I personally love to use the Headspace app. There are many different meditation apps out there that you can easily download on your phone. If you want a few more suggestions, check out my blog post on meditation and psoriatic arthritis.
Pranayama is the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercise. The following are two pranayama exercises and a mindfulness technique. Try them out and see which you like best! Then, try to incorporate the exercise into your daily activity. Incorporating one of these techniques will help calm your nervous system, your hormones, your immune system, your body, and your life.
Exercise 1: Breath control
Did you know you can directly affect your energy by focusing on different parts of your breath? Focusing on your inhales and exhales can have profound effects on the body.
Low on energy? Focusing on elongating your inhales will help your body take in more oxygen and create more energy for the body to use. Need to calm down? Focus on extending your exhales. This will help your body relax and shift out of fight or flight mode!
The following exercise will focus on your exhales, but this exercise can be completed by focusing on your inhales as well! Depending on how you’re feeling, try both.
Start by getting in a comfortable position. It can be sitting up tall, sitting on the floor, sitting in a chair, or perhaps lying on your back. Whatever is most comfortable for you and will allow you to relax for a few moments is what you should do.
If you’re seated, make sure your spine is long, the crown of your head is reaching up toward the ceiling, and your shoulders are melting down your back.
Bring your focus to your breath. First, focus on where you’re breathing. Are you breathing from your chest or are you breathing from your low belly? Take a few rounds of breath just as you are and then start to focus on expanding that lower abdomen. When you inhale, your low belly should expand and when you exhale, you should pull your belly button back toward your spine. Focus on this low belly breathing for five full inhales and exhales.
Next, we’ll start elongating our exhales. Take a deep inhale to fill that low belly and, on your exhale, mindfully count to four. Once you reach four, take a deep inhale and repeat. Focus on this cycle of breath three more times.
On your next inhale, fill your abdomen with as much oxygen as you can and this time on your exhale, extend your counting to five. Repeat three times.
With your next inhale, gather as much breath as you can on your inhale and elongate your exhale to a count of six. Repeat three more times.
Note: You can continue this pattern for as long as you can comfortably extend your breath. If you reach a count of five and cannot go any further, stop! Work at your own pace and do what seems to resonate with your body.
And remember, this exercise can be completed by focusing on the inhales as well! Try it by extending your inhale counts and passively exhaling.
Exercise 2: Nadi Shodhana
This exercise will alternate your breath between your left and right nostrils.
Sitting straight up, raise your right hand up in front of your face. Rest your pointer and middle finger softly between your eyebrows for support. Using your thumb, close off your right nostril. Take a deep inhale through your left nostril. At the top of your inhale, close off the left nostril with your ring finger and pause just for a moment. Releasing your thumb, slowly exhale out of your right nostril. At the end of your exhale, briefly pause like you did at the top of your inhale. Then, inhale gently through the right nostril. Using your thumb, close off your right nostril, pausing just for a moment. And exhale out of your left nostril.
This exercise should be completed five to 10 times. Follow your breath. Mindfully be aware of how your breath feels as you take your inhales and exhales. Do your best to be consistent with the length of your inhales, exhales, and pauses.
This exercise helps clear out your sinuses, brings mental clarity, helps relax your anxious mind and body, and positively impacts your body’s systems!
Exercise 3: Stop and be mindful
A simple way to check in with your body, and start to become more mindful, is to set reminders on your phone. Set a reminder at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m. Whenever your alarm goes off, stop what you're doing, and check in with your body.
How is your body feeling? Do you have pain anywhere? Are you relaxed? Are you holding onto any stress or tension? Is your body trying to tell you something?
This simple exercise reminds us to stop what we're doing and pay attention to our body’s symptoms and signals. It trains us to stop what we’re doing and tune into our bodies.
We don't have to have a daily, hour-long meditation practice to reap the benefits of checking in with our bodies. Start by dedicating one minute, a few times a day, to checking in. Slowing down, listening to what our bodies are telling us, and readjusting to accommodate!
Our bodies are so smart, and they're trying to help us. They're always giving us loving signals and signs to tell us what's wrong or what we need to address. Whenever we become mindful, and tune into our bodies’ feedback, we can start to tap into that innate healing ability that each of us possesses.
By utilizing these three breathing exercises, we can begin to relax, control our nervous systems, control our immune system, and have better control over managing our psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis.