What’s your relationship to your breath? Do you have one?
There are days that go by when I take about two full breaths. Sound familiar? I have a magnet on my vision board that reminds me to BREATHE and a huge Inhale, Exhale card obviously doing the same. But it’s still not enough. I mean, how many reminders do we need?
We’re basically lazy when it comes to breathing, don’t you think? We are so used to the breath always being with us, that we unequivocally take it for granted. Additionally, we’re often so checked out of our bodies that we actually believe we breathe with our brains.
More than 7 years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, this was made abundantly clear. I had a random and terrifying panic attack. I literally couldn’t find my breath—it was so shallow and constricted—and my mind went crazy searching for it. Only when I dropped out of my head, and re-inhabited my body, did breathing kick in and my lungs soften to receive it.
Seriously, we shouldn’t have to wait around for something acute like this to happen to get us to pay attention to our breathing. If you’re not convinced, here are five of my favorite reasons, and things we can do, to be more conscious of the breath:
1. CLEANSE—Inhale the fresh and the vibrant. Exhale the toxic and the un-necessary.
2. CONDUCT—Send healing breath into sore parts of your body, and help to alleviate physical pain.
3. CALM—Take slow attentive breaths to quiet you down when you are aggravated and on edge.
4. CENTER—With each inhale and exhale, draw inwards and awaken deeper awareness of you.
5. CONNECT—Synchronize body and mind, and link with spirit.
In meditation, we are often encouraged to count our breath. Maybe this sounds incredibly dull to you, like counting sheep to put you to sleep. Yet in my son’s bedtime book, Russell the Sheep, Russell is a sheep who tries desperately hard to fall asleep but he just can’t settle down. He tries counting everything, until he finally decides to count sheep or essentially count on himself. Guess what? It works. Finally, relaxed enough, he dozes off.
Breathing is like this too. When we count our breath, we count on our breath. We discover it is the ticket back to ourselves. The breath both coaches and coaxes us into self-reliance, not only for relaxation into sleeping states, but also for profound letting go in superlatively chaotic and awake states. What a tool!
The beauty of breath is that it is, for most of us, always available. It is after all what makes living in these blessed and temperamental bodies possible, right? So please, if nothing else, honor your breathing. Believe in it. Really value it. Consciously BREATHE.