We take our breathing for granted, usually breathing 12-16 times every minute without being aware of it. This is because whether it is fast or slow, whether we hold it or not, whether it is shallow or deep, the breath keeps going. Most of us don’t pay attention to the breath – the in-breath, the out-breath, how shallow or deep it is, it’s rhythm, how and when we hold our breath, the connection between our emotional state and breathing patterns, and interestingly how hard it is just to pay attention to such a simple thing. The only two times we usually start noticing it are when something happens to prevent us from breathing normally or when we start meditating or being mindful.
Becoming aware of the breath or learning to breath consciously seems to be consistently helpful with myself and almost all my patients.When you start paying attention to your breathing on a regular basis, your relationship to it changes dramatically. Notice how the rhythm of your breathing varies continuously. When we are upset, anxious or exercising our breathing speeds up, when we are relaxed or sleeping, it slows down.
Try this now: breath shallowly and see how you feel – then breath deeply and see the difference.
Benefits of Breathing
When we are aware of our breathing, it helps to calm the body and mind. This calmness helps us be more aware of our thoughts and feelings and not being swept away with them.
- It helps release tension and energizes us.
- It is the perfect antidote to the fight-or-flight reaction.
- It allows us be alive in every moment and leads to better health in general.
- The breath anchors us, reminds us to get out of our minds/thoughts and tune in to our bodies, so we can bring awareness to our experiences.
Breathing consciously is easy and convenient. It can be learned and practiced easily as opposed to other functions like maintaining a slow heart rate or low blood pressure.All meditation techniques will get you to focus on your breathing as part of the process.Tuning in to your breathing brings you in touch with the cycles, pulsation’s and flow of your body and how it changes with different emotional, mental and physical states. It anchors you in the awareness of your body, in the here and now.
The fact that it is a rhythmic process and that it is constantly changing teaches us to be comfortable with change, an essential aspect of stress management. Here are 2 easy breathing exercises you can do anywhere:
- Find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed.
- Get into a relaxed position whether lying down (better) or sitting up.
- Put your hands on your abdomen
- Close your mouth gently and touch your tongue to your upper palate and breath through your nose. If your nose is blocked for any particular reason it is fine to breath through your mouth.
- Inhale deeply and slowly, being aware of your diaphragm moving downward and your abdomen expanding. Your hands on your abdomen will feel the expansion like a balloon filling.
- At the end of the inhalation, don’t hold the breath and your abdomen will fall automatically as you exhale.
- Try get all the breath out of your lungs on the expiration. The expiration should normally be about twice as long as the inhalation when you get relaxed.
Keep repeating this, keeping your focus on your hands rising on the abdomen with inhalation and falling with expiration.
Breathing to release tension
- Find a comfortable position.
- Do 10 abdominal breaths.
- Then imagine with your next inhalation, breathing into a tense area eg a tight neck or lower back, your head or your buttocks, wherever you may feel pain or tension.
- With the exhalation let the tension go out the nose with the air.
Keep repeating this until the pain or tension starts to ease.