“Breath is life. We should pay as much attention to it as any other aspect of beingness.” Swami Nostradamus Vira
One of the first and last things we do in our lives is breathe so why not sometimes pay it a bit of extra attention? It is essential to life and many theories from ancient times to modern day claim the way we breathe has a direct effect on our wellbeing. However, most of the time we ignore how we breathe and therefore miss a huge opportunity that’s constantly there for us and our health.
“Breathing affects your respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, gastrointestinal, muscular, and psychic systems, and also has a general affect on your sleep, memory, ability to concentrate and your energy levels.” Donna Farhi
During treatments and classes, I will often invite you to “take a deep in-breath and long out-breath.” Each in-breath offers the chance to welcome not only air, but also energy, balance and positivity into your life. Every out-breath allows you to release, let go and clear out anything that’s not serving you anymore. After this extra attention, you can let your breathing settle. There’s no need to force any-thing, just notice your breath as it flows in and out like waves and gently encourage it to slow, deepen and become regular.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” Amit Ray
“If we live as we breathe, take in and let go, we cannot go wrong.” Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Healthy breathing adapts to our behaviour, thoughts and feelings, changing in speed, rhythm and depth to help us deal most effectively with whatever situation we are in. If we are calm and content, our breathing is also normally deep, relaxed and regular. Equally, if we are experiencing something physically, mentally or emotionally demanding our breath will usually quicken. Babies and small children utilise responsive breathing instinctively. Sometimes, older children and adults unfortunately become stuck in a ‘fight or flight’ response to perceived stressors, continuing to breathe shallowly and rapidly when the demanding situation has ended. In a vicious circle, this can lead to dis-ease in our body, mind and heart, repeatedly triggering the lighter, faster breathing that is only designed to be efficient for short periods of time.
“Improper breathing is a common cause of ill health.” Dr. Andrew Weil
“The link between insufficient oxygen and disease has now been firmly established.” Dr. W. Spencer Way
Practicing mindfulness and noticing how you’re breathing can provide you with a wealth of information as to how you are feeling. Luckily, just as your thoughts and emotions affect your breathing, your breathing can also alter how you think and feel.
Slow, deep breathing, especially focusing on the out breath can help you feel calmer in stressful situations, reducing your heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormones, boosting your immunity and balancing your whole nervous system. Emphasising the in breath can have an invigorating, uplifting effect.
Since breathing is so central to our wellbeing, why not relearn natural, responsive breathing and also practice new breathing techniques (pranayama) to control and alter your breath to greatly benefit the nervous system? You can then more effectively utilise your precious breath to be healthier and happier.
“This is perhaps one of the most valuable lessons we can learn: to let the breath flow naturally, effortlessly and freely…by becoming aware of our breath and receiving its natural flow, we can transform how we perceive, think, feel, experience and response to life. Mindful breathing is the source of it all.” Jean Hall
And now, deep breath in…long breath out…and let go…