Our breath. It’s something that most of us take for granted. We go throughout our daily life not thinking much of it. Assuming we’re ‘doing it right’. I mean, it happens automatically, what’s there to think about? Actually, a lot.
Our breath is the only autonomic system we can manipulate. Have you ever paused to ask yourself why? Why would we be given the ability to control our breath? Other than for the obvious, holding our breath under water. But there must be more to it than that. This is where the enlightening words of Deepak Chopra whisper in my ear….”You are not breathing. You are being breathed.” What!? The first time I heard him say that, I almost fell out of my chair. You know when you hear something that is a lightning bolt of truth, a powerful epiphany? This was that for me. I am not breathing, I am being breathed! This is why we can control our breath. It is our connection to our soul! It is literally the breath of life from the un-manifest to the manifest (Prana, life fore). It is a constant reminder that we are much more than this physical body. Powerful! Now that we know the ‘why’, let’s look at how most of us take our breath for granted, what that does, and how to change it.
OF COURSE I KNOW HOW TO BREATHE!
Most people go about their day unaware of their breath. And if you’re like most people, you have too much to do and not enough time. This is a recipe for stress, anxiety, and shallow breathing. A majority of the people I work with don’t even realize they’re breathing shallow (in their chest) and worse, holding their breath. When we’re in fight or flight mode (which unfortunately in today’s society happens on the daily over things like the barista forgetting that extra shot of espresso) we not only take short shallow breaths but you’ll find yourself pausing, holding your breath for a few seconds. This wreaks havoc on your physical and emotional body. Over an extended period of time, this bad habit leads to anxiety, stress, pulmonary weakness, even panic attacks!
OKAY I GET IT. SO, NOW WHAT DO I DO?
Throughout your day, pause periodically and pay attention to your breath. This only takes 30-60 seconds of observation. I don’t care how busy you are, you’ve got that kind of time for yourself. Got your breathing time checks down? Good! Here’s what to do.
Witness your normal breathing first. Where are you breathing? Place one hand on your chest and the other on the center of your belly. Now close your eyes and just breathe how you normally would. Don’t try to change anything at first. Observe. Is your breath up high in your chest? Or down in your belly? How is the quality of your breath? Quick and short breaths? Or slow and even? Now that you’ve observed and know what your natural tendency is if it’s slow belly breathing, great! Keep doing what you’re doing and check in periodically to ensure you’re breathing stays full, smooth, and relaxed. If you’ve found you’re a shallow chest breather, don’t panic! Just implement these tips below daily and in no time, you’ll be a slow soulful belly breather!
NATURAL BREATHING TECHNIQE
- Place one hand on your chest and one hand on the center of your belly.
- Gently and slowly inhale a normal amount of air through your nose, filling only your lower lungs. (Your stomach will expand while your upper chest remains still.)
- Exhale easily.
- Continue this gentle breathing pattern with a relaxed attitude, concentrating on filling only the lower lungs.
In yoga, we learn in detail how divine and healing our breath is. There are countless breathing techniques for everything from detoxification, stress-reduction, restful sleep, to enlightenment. These should be practiced under the supervision of a professional who can instruct with detail and observe. To me, the most important breath is the natural breathing we do thousands of times a day that has the biggest impact in our life. Let’s begin by mastering our natural rhythm of breath to cultivate health, awareness, and peace.
In Love & Gratitude,