I have yet to meet anyone that does not breathe. We all do it, it is the essence of life itself. The breath is what connects us physically to all that is, and we take our first and last breath as our entrance and exit in this body. In the meantime, we are said to take about half a billion breaths, all of them to sustain life here on this planet. We can live for weeks without food, and for days without water, but we can only live for minutes without our breath. It is the first, the last, and the everything. The fact is that we take about 17,000 breaths a day for our body to be saturated with oxygen. Breathing also triggers many physiological mechanisms.
Being the connection to life, the breath is also the connection between all of our bodies. Our mental, emotional and physical bodies are all connected through our breathing. The thoughts that you think and the emotions that you feel will automatically influence and alter your breath. Think about when you are fearful or anxious, the breathing becomes more rapid and even shallow. The calmer the mind, and the more secure our feelings are, the slower and deeper out breath is.
I myself used to be a very shallow breather, which is a quite typical scenario when you are living a stress-filled life. What shallow breath means is that one is only using the narrow top portion of the lung surface for oxygen exchange. Our breath literally stops at the diaphragm, therefore we call it shallow. A good breath for health will go all the way down, expanding your abdomen. It will take some work, but by being conscious about our breath, we can reprogram our automatic breathing to benefit our whole being. We can re-connect ourselves through the breath of life. When we mainly use shallow upper-chest breathing, we reduce the efficiency of our lungs and the respiratory system. It will result in less blood flow and less productive distribution of the vital lymph fluids than if deep-breathing.
Changing how you breathe can foster the self-healing powers of your body.
Are you a shallow breather also? There are a few obvious ways that you can tell, so get to it and find out. Lie down and put one hand on your chest and the other one on your abdomen. Breathe like you usually do and watch your hands. Breathe normally. If the hand on your chest rises first, you are a shallow breather. If the one on your abdomen rises first, you are a deep breather.
By spending time alone with our breathing, we will start to experience ourselves as more than this physical body. It is the simple way to start any meditation practice, to simply be aware of the breath. Once we become a part of our breath or breathing, the mind loses its grip, and stillness can come forth. This way, even the subconscious mind will start to dissolve its thought patterns.
A regular daily practice of deep breathing techniques and conscious breathing practices will give long-standing benefits. Any breathing exercise can also be used as a tool for calming a stressful situation, or for driving away anxiety and uneasiness. When you notice that your breathing is hectic, shallow or stressful, use one of the techniques below. This way, as you practice, you will slowly be able to stay in a place of calm in any situation. Yoga, tai chi, and qigong are all ancient practices that incorporate breath as a central component.
I found Pranayama many years ago and was intrigued by the role that it has amongst Indian healers and practices. For thousands of years, the yogis of India have had the experience that certain breathing techniques, methodically applied over time, will give specific healing results.
By practicing Pranayama, we are clearing the obstructions in all of our bodies. We are allowing the breath itself, the Prana, to flow freely.
This is my favorite pranayama breathing technique:
This is referred to as the Nadi Shodhana – It is used for grounding and calmness, to regain balance. The practice has some great claims for those who practices over time, and for around 20 minutes every day. This is also a great way to start any meditation practice.
It is also called Alternate Nostril Breathing, and is said to:
- Improve the ability to focus and be alert.
- Restore balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
- Support the lungs and respiratory system.
- Rejuvenate the whole nervous system.
- Remove toxins by moving the lymphatic system, and excreting through the breath.
Start slow and build up slowly. Aim for a 20 minute a day practice, and make a habit of it. The benefits will come from a steady practice. Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed, and sit in a comfortable position. Sit on the floor if you can, with your spine straight. If you need support or find it is more comfortable for you to sit in a chair, by all means, do so. As you evolve through practice, you can move on to sitting in a lotus position on a yoga mat. The practice of pranayama is best done in the early morning before you eat anything. Make sure the room you will be using has a lot of fresh air.
This is all about the breath, the air.
- Make sure your heart is open, and that your intent is of love and healing.
- Put your right thumb over your right nostril, while your left arm is relaxing on your lap.
- Inhale deeply through your left nostril.
- At the peak of the inhalation, put your fourth finger on your left nostril, loosen the grip of your thumb, and slowly exhale through the right nostril.
- After a full exhalation, inhale through the right nostril, closing it off with your right thumb at the peak of your inhalation, lift your fourth finger and exhale smoothly through your left nostril.
- Keep breathing for as long as it is comfortable, but try to start with at least 3 minutes. Any new practice will take some time to learn, and by doing, we get better.
Read more on this and other topics of healing in the book, Know the TRUTH and get HEALTHY!