Morning Mindfulness Practice…

I begin each morning with meditation. I’ve found that it’s a great start to any day, to wake early and not be in a rush to do anything but just to lie still and focus on nothing but my heart beat, my breath and relaxing my whole body.

I believe a mindfulness practice to begin ones day sets up the day towards better thinking, feeling and living.

My meditation session is one that i tailored to suit myself, you should do the same. There are many ways to practice mindfulness and you should just go with whichever one you find you will consistently practice. If you don’t consistently practice mindfulness then you really aren’t going to get much benefit from it. And even when you do consistently practice, it can take several weeks before you begin to notice the benefits – you will need faith and persistence.

Most would recommend turning their phones off before any mindfulness practice, and i would agree to a certain degree. You should certainly make sure that your phone has been put on ‘Do not disturb’ setting, or any other setting that blocks all calls, texts and updates. But i do feel it’s ok to run whatever timer, metronome or apps that you have found that help you in your mindfulness practice – which i do.

To begin my session i begin a breath focused meditation while at the same time i’m doing a 5 minute heart rate and HRV check.

I use ‘Elite HRV’ app’s ‘Morning Readiness’ feature which i set to 5 minutes (the maximum it goes).

When doing a HRV reading it is important to remove as many variables as possible, so i always do this under the duvet to maintain a nice comfortable body temperature while in Shavasana. My focus here is to completely surrender to relaxation while at the same time completely focusing on matching my breathing to my heart beat.  I breath as shallowly as possible, 2 beats in 3 beats out – easier said than done!!!

The ‘Morning Readiness’ feature of Elite HRV is a great tool used in this way. You can see very clearly every morning how your body state truly is, whether you’ve overtrained etc.. I find it incredibly helpful in this regard which makes me very persistent doing this mindfulness practice daily.

Once the 5 minutes ‘Morning Readiness’ is finished i then switch to the ‘HRV Exercise’ feature and then do a static apnea table.

Static Apnea Tables are mostly used by freedivers to increase the amount of time they can stay underwater on one breath of air. I started doing these because freediving is on my bucket list but before i learned to freedive i had to learn to swim, then once i learned to swim i thought, i don’t want to do freediving at the moment, i want to do triathlons.

But i kept static apnea tables in my training arsenal as it’s also thought that practising static apnea tables increases levels of erythropoietin (EPO) and will improve other areas of fitness and wellbeing by making one’s body carry and use more oxygen more efficiently in a totally natural way.

Along with the ‘Morning Readiness’ check, i’ve also come to view static apnea practice as a wonderful meditation that allows me a view into myself that i can’t get any other way. And it’s a very interesting view. Breathing is an incredibly important part of living, and breathing well is an incredibly important beginning to living well. By practising static apnea when one wakes up every morning one can see the effects of changes to one’s lifestyle from the day before on the body through it’s need for oxygen. Try smoking cigarettes and doing these tables! Drink a cup of coffee and do them! Quit drinking tea, coffee and smoking cigarettes and see what difference it makes over the coming days and weeks.

Eventually, over time, one can take out of one’s lifestyle and diet everything that is impeding one’s ability to breath properly and efficiently because one sees the direct effect of everything on their breathing through the tables.

I use Unaerobic Plus, which i find to be a brilliant app for this purpose.

You should only do one table per day, either CO2 or O2, (depending on how much time you have spare as the O2 table takes a while longer to complete) with 8 cycles in each table!

Of course, we’re all different and our bodies behave differently and respond to training differently, so play around with things and see what works best for you, you may prefer 4 seconds in and 8 seconds out for example, maybe 7 or 9 cycles gives better results.

So my June 2017 times…

CO2 Table…

0:41 = 3 breaths – hold 1:36
repeat another 6 times, then…
0:41 = 3 breaths – hold 2:36

3 breaths in 41 seconds are achieved with 5 seconds out, then 5 seconds in, 10 seconds out two times, followed by 6 seconds fully in to hold. If you are not able to let the air out easily over the first 5 seconds breath out after any hold then you’re holding too long, shorten the hold time until you can manage the first 5 seconds out breath easily.

As you can see, i set the last hold time to 1 minute more than the first 7. If i can hold 30 seconds of that then i increase all holds by 1 second, i hold as long as possible on this last hold but never longer than 1 minute extra. It’s ok to leave yourself gasping at the end of the last hold.

O2 Table…

1:56 = 8 breaths – hold 1:35
1:56 = 8 breaths – hold 1:47
1:56 = 8 breaths – hold 1:59
1:56 = 8 breaths – hold 2:09
1:56 = 8 breaths – hold 2:21
1:56 = 8 breaths – hold 2:33
1:56 = 8 breaths – hold 2:45
1:56 = 8 breaths – hold 3:05

8 breaths in 1:56 are achieved with 5 seconds out, then 5 seconds in and 10 seconds out 7 times followed by 6 seconds in to hold. If you find you are not able to let the air out under control over the first 5 seconds breath out after any hold then you’re holding too long, shorten that hold until you can manage the 5 seconds out breath under control. If you are finding any first breath out too easy then increase that hold by 1 second. You should find yourself just about at your limits for each hold, judging by how well you can control that first breath out after each hold, and each hold will need to be adjusted accordingly.  There’s no need to force this, your breath hold times will naturally increase over time with consistent practice.

Only do one of these tables per day. Never do more. One is enough.

Throughout these tables one should practice mindfulness. In the breath part it is important to breath as evenly and deep and under control as possible, and then to drop into the hold part instantly focusing on complete and total relaxation. As there’s no breath to watch on the hold parts it’s important to keep the mind focused. To begin each hold the focus is on relaxing the whole body, then after that it’s simply about not focusing at all, or focusing on the void (as i like to call this emptiness), and just accepting all the various sensations given to it by the body and simply letting them pass by without responding or judging – even when the CO2 build up is becoming very uncomfortable.  As i said earlier, it’s a wonderful view into oneself.

As with all mindfulness practice, static apnea practice needs to be practice consistently.  It’s not easy, it’s not meant to be easy, it’s uncomfortable, but if we practice consistently then the discomfort becomes normal and the practice opens up aspects of ourselves otherwise unviewed.  To be honest, the hardest part is getting the tables set up to match your ability and then sticking with the practice.

After i’ve done the breath table i stay in Shavasana for 10 minutes. You can set an extra breath/hold period at the end of each table in Unaerobic Plus for 10 minutes breathing and 1 second hold and it’ll tell you when to begin and when it’s over so no need to do anything after the table other than get your breath back and relax again.

During these ten minutes i focus on complete relaxation first.  Once completely relaxed i just let my breath do whatever it wishes to without any control at all (no breathing to heart beat on this one), just watching it pass in and out without any judgement.  If you find your thoughts appearing, as they undoubtedly will, just let go of them without judgement of the thoughts or yourself for having them, and bring yourself back to the breath and continue until your next thought appears, and simply repeat.

I find some mornings my thoughts are like a 2 year old who just won’t settle and is having tantrums because they can’t play with whatever they aren’t allowed to play with, but i persevere and whenever i catch myself in these thoughts i simply bring my mind back to the focus.  Other mornings i find i have wonderful focus.  Either is good, just practice without judgement.

Then after all that is over the 4th part of morning mindfulness is simply making my bed and tidying my bedroom before i step through the bedroom door to begin my day.  If you begin your day with a messy bedroom left behind you then what exactly do you expect your day to turn out like?

And then my day begins with whatever the day has in store for me, each day is different, but each day always begins the same before i leave the bedroom.

I begin each and every day having achieved something good, positive and fulfilling, and left behind a clean and tidy space to return to in the evening ready to rest and sleep again.

Write a comment if you have any questions or comments about what i’m doing here.

Best wishes.