Out of the 20,000 breaths we take per day, how many are we truly present for?
Take a moment to close your eyes and breathe.
What do you feel? Since our breath is an automatic function of the body we tend to forget about it, until ... well, thats the catch, until what? Ask yourself about the times you have been nudged either by your own inner voice or someone else to take a deep breath. Most likely it has been during episodes of anxiety, worry, or even burnout. This is because deep breaths have been shown to stimulate the para-sympathetic response system (rest & digest), decease heart rate, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress. Deep breaths also allow the body to fully exchange oxygen with CO2, a vital function of our well-being.
So, how should we incorporate mindful breathing into our life?
Start by acknowledging it. Take time to learn about the breath and it's function. For example, did you know that the nose prepares the breath by disenfecting, removing particles, and getting it to the right temperature for it to be recieved by the lungs? Just this mechanism alone allows the breath to be optimized in a way that is most beneficial for our bodies. By understanding the breath we can start to develop trust in it and also evokes gratitude towards it, which over time can increase happiness!
My go-to breath knowledge resources:
• Breathe, The Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
• In Search of a Fuller Breath (podcast) by Kera (Think. podcast; NPR)
Build a relationship. As cliche as it may sound, our breath is our friend. Overtime, we can lose sight of it and feel somewhat disconnected from it, but don't worry, thankfully the breath is always there! Nonetheless, this relationship should be worked on and developed just like a friendship. Take a moment to think about how you and your closests friend's relationship evolved. It most likely needed a lot of attention, nurturing, and trust. It likely required you to listen and possibly even become vulnerable. This is a true friendship, and this is what we can create with our own breath!
My go-to relationship hacks:
• Set a time 1-3 times a day (start slow) to focus on your breath. You can take a few mindful breaths as soon as you wake up and also as you are resting, and even before each meal. Important: do not strain the breath, ever.
• Close your eyes and try to visualize the area in your body where the breath is traveling to.
Start slow. It is important to acknowledge that breathing mindfully or deeply is just like starting a new exercise or routine, it is important to ease into it in order to build a strong foundation. This will prepare the body and mind for longer sessions of deep breathing as well as more complex breathing techniques in the future.
Here is a unique breath exercise to get you started:
• Square Breath: find a comfortable seat, take a few normal breaths working your way into deeper breaths (but never strain your lungs), then start your square breath. Breathe in for three seconds, hold for three seconds, breathe out for three seconds, and rest for three seconds. Imagine you are breathing to the outline of a square, one side is the inhale, the other the hold, the other the exhale, and the other the rest. Feel free the increase the time based on your own judgement and capabilities.
Square breath helps improve focus, recenter, and reduces stress. This technique can be done any time of the day when the need for concentration is needed or unwanted stress is present.
As always, listen to your body and go at your own pace! You know your body more than anyone :)
Until next time,