To celebrate the crescent moon on August 7th (the same moon that is featured in our logo), we decided to gather a few enthusiastic swimmers for our first ever #RubyMoonMindfulSwim – a mindfulness session followed by a swim in the ocean.
Our meeting point, the Brighton bandstand, was taken over by some salsa dancers and so we moved further down the beach to a quieter spot to begin our conscious breathing experience led by Dawn Wilson. Dawn is a hypnotherapist and healthy food chef who has studies a range of holistic practices and cognitive therapies. More recently she has focussed on breathing techniques to unleash the power of the conscious breath. She led us in two different types of breath work.
We began with a slower, more mindful breath encouraging us to turn our focus inward. Paying sole attention to how oxygen flows in and out of the bodies can relieve stress and tension and calm the “monkey brain”. Our monkey brain is where our most basic instincts are located, it works in a fight or flight mode and forms basic responses to fear and desire. When multitasking, our monkey brain often takes over, making mindless decisions that are not thought through with our human brain. As a consequence, we become overwhelmed and stressed. Researchers at Stanford University have proven that there is a tiny cluster of neurons in the brain that link breathing to states of mind. It shows that when breathing slowly and smoothly a sense of calm comes over us, whilst breathing more rapidly mounts tension.
For this first practice, we all sat in a circle with our hands open-faced (receiving) resting on our knees. We started by taking a slow inhale through the nose (counting 1-2-3-4), holding the breath (for another 1-2-3-4) and exhaling mindfully through the mouth (1-2-3-4). With practice you can count for longer. The aim was to breathe not only into the lungs but all the way into the stomach (like babies do automatically), encouraging a full oxygen exchange.
The second practice was more of an energetic breathing exercise to get our bodies ready for a dip in the ocean. Inspired by the Wim Hof Method (which combines cold therapy and breathing) we were instructed to take 30 quick and energetic breaths in and out, raising and lowering our hands as we did so. On the last breath we were told to exhale half-way and then hold our breath – for 30 seconds in the first round, then 40 then 50. More experienced practitioners like Dawn can hold their breath for up to three minutes. This method increases the oxygen flow in the body. Although there were only two brave souls that decided to take the plunge after the breathing session (due to turbulent weather conditions), everyone left feeling invigorated and recharged.
We are hoping to make the #RubyMoonMindfulSwim more of a regular occurrence over the last of the summer months. In our hectic everyday lives, it is good to take a moment to focus, meet new friends and enjoy a swim in the sea!