If you are like most of us human beings, you have what is known in Buddhist circles as a “monkey mind,” a mind that never keeps still, where the thoughts are chattering away ceaselessly and jumping around all over the place, just like a monkey!
Mischievous, wild, clever, and unpredictable! However, do you know how to turn off your mind? Most of us don’t but more and more we are finding our way to the tools that can bring us a sense of inner peace and calm.
The yogis of India have known about these tools for five thousand years of course, but western society is catching up to them. The art of alternate nostril breathing is an ancient yogic technique, which calms the mind, detoxifies the emotions, energizes the mind, and brings about a feeling of calm alertness.
Even just a few minutes of this breathing exercise can have very positive results, so you can do it on your work break, or on public transport, on a park bench or in the comfort of your own home.
How to Do Alternate Nostril Breathing
1. First, find a quiet place where you can be undisturbed, if only for a few minutes.
2. Sit comfortably.
3. Put the right thumb over the right nostril, and your first two fingers between the eyebrows.
4. Breathe in through your left nostril for a count of four.
5. Place your third finger of your right hand over your left nostril Release the thumb from the right nostril.
6. Breathe out through the right nostril for four.
7. Breathe in through the right nostril for four. Place your right thumb over your right nostril.
8. Release third finger from left nostril and breathe out through left nostril for four.
9. Repeat steps 4-8 for several minutes.
10. Notice how you feel and compare it with when you began.
Now of course you cannot really turn off your mind completely. Thoughts come and go and this is only natural.
Other ways to “turn off” your mind include:
A simple exercise you can do to relax your physical body, which in turn will help quieten your mind, is what is known as progressive muscle relaxation. You can start at your toes and work your way up the different body parts, one by one, by clenching and then releasing the muscles.
Mindfulness is the art of staying focused on the present moment, without worrying about the future or ruminating about the past. This practice of “being present,” allows the mind to calm and slow down. One way to practice mindfulness is to focus on the act of breathing.
Notice, without judgment, the sensations of breathing in and breathing out and if your mind wanders, just gently bring it back to the task at hand.
The physical postures that we associate with yoga are designed to change the chemical balance of the brain. The poses carry fresh oxygenated blood to the brain, causing a calm, alert mind to result. Yoga also calms the nerves and so is good for reducing anxiety. It relaxes the body and stimulates the brain, so the mind is naturally active without the overthinking that goes along with too much stress.
Therefore, while no one can actually “turn off” his or her mind, there is much you can do to quieten and calm your mind. You could try each one of the exercises described in this article and see how they work for you. Try each exercise for up to a month before passing judgment on it. Have fun!