Every minute of every day we breathe, what a joy to feel our breath, to feel our aliveness and vitality. It is the manna or life source that enables us to exist and is essential for our survival. Conscious breathing is said to be one of the best antidotes to stress, anxiety and depression.
For many years I have given much consideration to the food and drink that I consume, yet paid little attention to my breath. We can survive for days without food and even water, though only minutes without oxygen. Our breath is vital to our physical existence, the oxygen we inhale helps to build our very cells. It is a process that continually happens often without our conscious awareness.
Due to the wondrous nature of breathing, it's no surprise that many healing and esoteric practices emphasise focussing on the breath as part of a path to wellbeing. While most of us never give breathing a second thought, the way we draw breath can affect our physical and mental wellbeing. It has an impact on our energy levels and functioning.
Breathing properly can reduce stress levels, improve workouts and boost your immunity to infections and illnesses. Poor breathing can contribute to panic attacks and even conditions like insomnia and depression. Conscious breathing is a great form of meditation that can be easily practiced anywhere, anytime! It could be in the office, waiting for a bus, in a busy restaurant or wherever you happen to be. Simply pause and become aware of the inhale and exhale, the rise and fall of the chest as you breathe. Allow the breaths rhythm to centre, ground and calm you.
Thich Nhat Hanh on Breathing
Here are two quotes on breath from Thich Nhat Hanh, the famous Buddhist monk and peace activist, he clearly appreciated the positive benefits of conscious breathing:
"Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness,
which unites your body to your thoughts.
Whenever your mind becomes scattered,
use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again."
"Feelings come and go like clouds in a
windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor."
Ways to utilise the breath for your benefit
The following are some practices through which you can use the breath for your wellbeing and benefit.
- In any moment, whatever you are doing there is an opportunity to pause and watch the breath. Simply observing the breath can sometimes be enough to enhance your state of wellbeing and induce a sense of calm.
- Take a deep breath in and consciously let go with the out breath. This simple exercise helps me let go of any tension that I may be holding onto.
- Use the breath to encourage mindfulness. One definition of Mindfulness is "the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience." Simply observe the breath as it enters and leaves the body. Pay attention to the experiences associated with breathing, perhaps how the breath passes through the nostrils and the physical sensations there, for example the difference in air temperature of the breath as it enters and leaves the body or the sensation as it passes over the skin.
- Deliberately take some deep in breaths. When we are tense we tend to take shallow breaths. With a deep conscious breath we allow the stale air that may have accumulated in our lungs to be released and be replaced with fresh, rejuvenating manna.
- Yawn - just because it feels good (and sometimes you can't help it!) Yawning is a way of the body getting more energy into it's system. Often when I yawn it is a sign of releasing energy from the field. Another great way of releasing is to sigh.
- The use of breath is a dominant factor in the practice of yoga, use yoga breathing techniques such as pranyamma to unwind and dissolve that which doesn't serve you and encourage unfoldment.
- Find and participate a movement practice that incorporates breath, such as Pilates, Yoga or Openhand's Soulmotion.
Fiona is an active listening therapist, reflexologist and experienced doula. She is passionate about living true to her heart and soul and empowering others to do the same. She runs various workshops related to women's issues and loves joining women in circle. Her website is www.fionareilly.co.uk or click here for her facebook page.