Archive for September, 2010


When’s the last time you took a nice deep, purposeful, conscious breath? I mean really paid attention to taking a full deep breath in and then exhaling fully and completely? If you said some time in the last day or two, awesome; if it’s been longer, maybe think about giving it a try…maybe even right this very minute…

I’ve been thinking about the breath a lot lately. When I talk to patient’s about it, I often talk about it in terms of how it effects the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system, a part of the peripheral nervous system, is connected to every organ system in your body. It is divided into two parts: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. When you are awake and active and stressed, your sympathetic nervous system is helping you to prepare to “fight or flee” the tigers in life. When you are resting, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, allowing your body to repair and rejuvenate. These two systems are supposed to work in balance with one another, but in our hectic modern day world, too often our sympathetic nervous system is working on over-time, using up our body’s precious resources without taking the time it needs to rest and repair. If this goes on too long, illness can occur. By taking a deep full breath, the relaxation response begins, your body is cued to slow down, and the parasympathetic nervous system comes into play. You allow precious blood to flow through your body, bringing healing, system repair and a sense of calm. You begin to feel calmer, better, more at ease. In this way, through your breath, you link your body and mind. You have an impact on your health and well being through this simple act.

The concept of the breath in our health and well being is not a new one, in fact it is ancient. In Eastern thought, the breath brings Qi or Chi to the body, mind and spirit. The Chi is thought to be the life force of the universe. In it runs the balance of Yin and Yang. Through the breath we connect to this universal life force. It runs along 12 major energy channels in the body called meridians. When the body comes out of balance, Chi is blocked, and the body becomes ill. In the Torah, or what some refer to as the Old Testament, the Hebrew word Neshema נשמה means both “spirit” and “breath”. God’s breath is seen as God’s spirit and our life force. In Sankrit the word Prana प्राण means “vital life force” as well as “breath”. Prana is thought to be responsible for the beating of the heart and breathing. Prana enters the body through the breath and is sent to every cell through the circulatory system. When this is disrupted the body becomes ill and our vitality is disrupted. What is that they say? Everything that’s old is new again…

Here’s the good news…we all know how to breathe. The trick is to pay attention to it, to really become aware of it’s power and influence over our health and well being. The hardest thing about practicing breath work is simply remembering to do it. Just like any activity, make sure it suits you and your routine. Will it be best for you to take time to breathe during your morning shower, during your lunch as you sit outside and look at the trees, during your morning or afternoon walk through the neighborhood or at night before you fall asleep? It doesn’t really matter when you do it, just that you make time to do it. The more you make it part of your regular routine, the more you will benefit.

I know you know how to breathe, but here are some simple steps to really optimize the health effects of breathing:

1) PAY ATTENTION. How does it feel to take a nice full breath in through your nose. Does the air feel cool as it enters your body? How does it feel to open your mouth and just let the breath fall out, without any effort? Does it feel warmed by your body? What other sensations do you notice as you simply breathe in and out?
2) BREATHE DEEP. Let yourself take a full deep breath all the way down into your lungs. No shallow chest breathing here. Feel your abdomen expand with the breath. When you breath out, feel your abdomen contract all the way back towards your spine.
3) GO SLOW. Allow yourself to breathe slowly. As your breath slows, your bodily systems will begin to slow and the process of relaxation can begin. Counting sometimes helps you to slow things down, or simply telling yourself to “go slow”.
4) OPTIMIZE YOUR EXPERIENCE. Count the breath. Breathe in for the count of 5 and then out for the count of 5 and notice how it brings your attention directly on to your breath. Or imagine inhaling something that you desire in the moment…perhaps a sense of increased comfort, calmness or well-being. On the exhale, let go of what you don’t want to hold onto…perhaps discomfort, stress, or worry.
5)MAKE IT PURPOSEFUL. Many people don’t like to take the time to breathe because they feel they aren’t keeping busy, that they aren’t doing something. The trick is to tell yourself that the purposeful act of breathing is doing something. It’s breathing. It’s taking time for your health and well being.

So, go ahead, take a breath or two, or five or more. I promise, if you take just the smallest amount of time to do it everyday, you will notice a difference in how you feel. Are you willing to give it a try? I’d love to hear how it goes…

Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer

Growth does not occur in the midst of comfort…ugh. ‘Tis true, my friends. In order to grow in life we have to struggle first. On the one hand, it doesn’t seem quite fair, having to hurt to gain. On the other hand, it is kinda nice to know there’s a reward waiting on the other side of something difficult. The trick is to remind yourself as you’re going through the process that there is something to be gained at the end of the road. It is what helps propel us forward, even when we think we can’t take one step more. It seems these days many folks are finding themselves in the midst of some pretty big transitions. This can be viewed either as a bad thing or a really wonderful thing. Remember, it’s all in your perspective. How you look at things really does make a difference…so choose carefully.

Tips for surviving a transition or growth episode:
1. Approach the future with wonder and curiosity, rather than judgment and worry. If you keep an open mind about what you will find ahead, you may just find something interesting out there.
2. Keep your eye on the prize. Even if you don’t know what it is yet (and even if you don’t quite believe it), tell yourself something good is coming your way. It’s surprising how this simple thing can help us keep the pace. Sometimes we’re so fearful about the unknown, that we unintentionally hold on to what we’re leaving behind, which gets in our way of moving forward.
3. Take one small step at a time. Things are more manageable if you break them down into small steps. It’s the small steps that make up the big steps, after all.
4. Let go of what you can’t control and stay focused on what you can control in the present. Learning to tell the difference between the two is critical. (Clue: if something is not working after repeated attempts, take a look at whether it was really something under your control in the first place.) When we try to control what’s not ours to control, we make ourselves feel more out of control!
5. Get some support. Talk to someone you care about. Preferably a friend who knows how to make you smile and who can boost your spirits. Laughing, praying or meditating can boost your spirits as well.
6. Take a break whenever you can. Listen to music, take a walk, go for a swim, pet an animal, hug someone you love, take a warm bath, rent a comedy, repair a sink…whatever works for you to distract yourself pleasantly for a short while so you can rejuvenate and get back to it. Remember it’s just a break though…don’t use it as an excuse to stop or get stuck.
7. Keep making conscious choices. Ask yourself if what you are doing is helping and if it is moving you forward. If it is not, ask yourself what will help…don’t forget to listen for the answer. Fear, anger and frustration can get in the way of listening. So, take a breath or a few, let go of the upset and listen to your inner voice for the answers you need.
8. Most importantly, keep faith in yourself. If you remind yourself you can get through the tough time, you increase your chances of success exponentially. But if you tell yourself you can’t succeed, you set yourself up for failure. Be careful not to get in your own way.

What helps you get through the tough transitions? I’d love to hear, if you’d like to share…

Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer

Simple Truths about Choice

Today I was lucky enough to get to talk to a group of wonderful people about choice. It was so energizing and enjoyable. I started off by showing a short u-tube video about the inspirational Sheena Iyangar, the “Choice” guru at Columbia University business school. She’s written a book called the Art of Choice. She contends that it is choice that adds meaning to our lives. I tend to agree. Throughout my lecture on “Making Healthy Choices” today, I discussed 8 simple truths. Take a look and see what you think:

Simple Truth #1
Simply telling yourself you can handle something, makes you able to handle it! Conversely, saying you can’t handle it increases the difficulty exponentially. You have the choice…

Simple Truth #2
You can choose not to be a victim…You can choose to have power.

Simple Truth #3
We have choice about what we focus on…which means we have choice over how we feel.

Simple Truth #4
You know your own answers…all you have to do is listen to the voice inside you that is connected to what is beyond you.

Simple Truth #5
Worrying brings us loss of control…Choosing to focus on the present and have faith in ourselves controls our worry and puts us feeling back in control.

Simple Truth #6
With awareness we can choose to stay open…we can control the “dimmer switch” and decide how open or closed we want to be given the circumstances.

Simple Truth #7
We all make bad choices at times…it’s OK…the trick is to choose to be honest, to learn from our mistakes, to let go, and then to move forward.

Simple Truth #8
If we choose to have faith in ourselves, we can handle anything that comes our way.
We make choices every day, of course. But are you fully aware of the choices you are making or are you simply reacting to your life?  It’s in making conscious choices that ultimately we are able to lead the healthy enjoyable lives that we all wish for. Are you taking at least a few moments every day to pay attention to what you are doing? Take a short walk, pray, meditate, breathe consciously, sit quietly…it doesn’t matter what, just take a little time to self-reflect. Take yourself off autopilot. Listen to that wonderful voice inside of you and coming through you and watch your world open up in front of you.
Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer
p.s. Today’s lecture was so much fun. If you want to catch the last lecture in the series on “Getting the Most Out of Your Communication”, set aside Wednesday October 27th at 11am. I’ll be back at HealthSouth Scottsdale Rehab Hospital. Call 480-551-5400 and ask for Melinda to let her know you’ll be coming.

Faith vs. Worry

How many times have you found yourself saying “Oh, I’m so worried about my friend, my spouse, my brother, my sister, my child…”? Some of us more often than others, but as my mother says, I’d lay dollars to donuts that it something that comes out of your mouth from time to time, especially during times of stress. Why do we do it? Why do we give others our worries? And when we give them our worries, what are we actually saying? “I don’t believe you can handle things?” “I don’t have faith in you?” “I don’t think things will turn out your way?” Now really, who in their right mind would actually say that to anybody they cared about? Yet, without meaning to, that’s exactly what we are saying. We need to realize that our worry won’t help the people we love, but, our faith in them will. Next time you have concern about someone that you love, instead of thinking or saying, “Oh, I’m so worried about you” perhaps instead you could think or say, “I have faith in you.” ” I know you’ll be able to handle this.” What a gift your faith is. Rather than weighing them down with your fears and worries, you give them wings to fly with your caring and your faith…which is really what you meant to do the whole time, isn’t it?

…and while we’re on the topic. How about doing the same thing for your very own self? All too often when we are faced with an overwhelming task or problem we go straight into worry. “How will I be able to handle that?” “What if I don’t succeed?” “What will people think of me if I fail?” What happens instead if you have faith in yourself and your ability to handle the situation? “I’m scared, but it will be O.K.” “I know eventually I’ll figure out what I need to do.” Instead of imagining yourself failing, allow yourself to image that you handle the situation, solve the problem, cope really well. I’m not talking about being PollyAnna and thinking everything is rosy. I’m talking about giving yourself hope and faith in your abilities. Infused with a higher power and supported by wisdom beyond ourselves, if we simply tell ourselves that we can handle anything we truly can…think about it. What you say to yourself really does make a difference.

So, faith vs. worry. Which do you choose? (My son says he chooses faith. Yay!)

Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer

Open or closed?

Over the past few months as I’ve been focusing in on the role of intuition in our lives, I’ve become aware of a new sense of openness. I describe it as an expanding awareness of the world around me and the options around me. The more curiosity I have about what I will encounter next seems to lead to a more enjoyable and interesting experience of whatever that next event is. For example, tonight I walk into the Gelato shop (La Scala in Fountain Hills, it’s amazing!) and ask the owner behind the counter how business has been this summer. She begins to tell me about her plan to develop and organic farm, starts pouring green oolong tea for me and shares her excitement about her future dreams of bringing organic produce and meat to her customers. All I did was walk into a store, ask a simple heartfelt question and I got to hear about another persons dreams and share her excitement…what a reward for so little effort.

On the drive home after gelato tonight, my 12 year old son commented that he was sure he would be bored tomorrow at the Cezanne exhibit lecture that we will be attending at the Phoenix Art Museum. He had already told me he was interested in going with me, because being an artist himself and being a frequent visitor to art museums he’s always up for a trip to the art museum. But, the mention of a lecture took him instantly to thoughts of boredom. I asked him if he knew the difference in being open or closed? I told him that when you are open you are curious about what’s coming next and keep open the possibility of learning something new from the experience, but that when you are closed you have already decided what your reaction to something is going to be and so not only do you close yourself off to learning, you also set yourself up for being bored. I asked him whether tomorrow he would prefer to learn something and be interested or whether he would prefer to be bored. He said of course he’d rather learn something and be interested. I suggested that the choice was his to make. Then I asked whether it was annoying having a psychologist as a mother and he said after 12 years the “lectures” were getting a little old! Later in the evening before bed when I asked him again whether or not he’d be open or closed tomorrow, he told me a story…”Well, it’s like when you get that box in the mail with the tape down the center seam. You start to get it halfway open and you realize that it’s not Christmas yet so you’d better wait. I’ll probably be half open.” I laughed and he said “Well, that’s just reality, Mom, it happens.” God bless him, he’s so right…given the situation we can choose how open or closed we’d like to be…with awareness the choice is ours. It’s wonderful having a child who’s smarter than I am.

Open or closed, the choice is ours.

Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer

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