The power of the breath is an extract from How to Be Well by Sharon Kolkka and Dr Karen Coates.
From the moment you take your first breath until the moment you take your last, this essential element for life has enormous influence on your mind and body. When observed, your breath can give focus to the mind, slow your heart rate, reduce blood pressure and bring internal quiet and stillness into focus.
The ancient and traditional healing systems, such as Ayurveda (from which yoga is derived), have known the significance of the breath and its patterns for centuries.
Yoga is the home of focused breathing. It teaches you to breathe in challenging poses and this learning can be transferred to your daily life.
Learning to notice and focus on your breathing whenever you feel self doubt, pressured, or notice your body’s stress response, you can change your physiology by changing the depth, rhythm and pace of your breathing.
On a physical level, research shows that diaphragmatic breathing – when each breath takes the diaphragm through its full range of motion – moves you out of the Red Zone. Paying attention to, and changing, your breathing pattern is a powerful ally in a fast-paced busy life. Breath is free and is constantly with you; you simply need to remember and pay attention
On a consciousness level, breath connects every one of us. Every intake of breath is an acceptance of life – you breathe in a gas that is given off by plants and trees. Every time you breathe out, you’re letting go, and the gas you exhale is essential for the life of plants and trees. In this simple way, we are all connected.
This cycle of giving and receiving has been present for centuries and will continue long after your lifetime. Yet many of us can go through life, lost in thought, disconnected from the essence of who we are.
The practice of mindfulness and meditation teaches you to pay attention to the messages your body is sending. Noticing you are shallow breathing and then actively changing to deep, belly breathing will help you calm down and move to parts of your brain that have more solutions and a better decision-making ability. Qi Gong, Pilates and yoga are some of the activities you can engage in to learn greater breath control.
Imagine you have a straw in your mouth. Form your lips into the shape they would take if you were holding the straw. Now draw air through the imaginary straw all the way to your belly. Hold your breath in for a moment until you feel the need to breathe out. Exhale through the imaginary straw and hold the breath out until you feel the need to breathe in. Repeat this for 3–4 breath cycles.
Do you notice that your mind is focused on your breath? This can be used as a circuit breaker for a busy mind, particularly in times of extreme pressure.
1 Begin every day by being aware of your breath.
2 Being aware of your breath will give you focus. Set an intention for
your day – be mindful to pay attention to your breath each moment
and remind yourself to regulate your breathing whenever you become
challenged or busy.
3 Throughout your day, notice your breathing. A faster pace of breath will be required in a spin class, a slower deeper pace in a massage.
4 A quiet walk will allow you to notice your breathing while walking in nature. You may notice how much is missed when you walk and talk with others. Try to take walks on your own and reflect on how beautiful it is to be in nature. Be silent and listen to the rhythm of your own breathing. Feel gratitude or awareness of being alive on a brand-new day.
5 You can practise your breathing wherever you are, whatever you are doing. This is the beauty and simplicity of the breath. Simply pay more attention to your breathing in different situations in life.
6 In challenging moments, try to deepen your breathing and slow its pace. If you wake in the middle of the night, rather than thinking, planning and organising, bring your awareness to focus on deep belly breathing.
This induces the body to relax. With the mind engaged on the breath, you can naturally fall back asleep.
Our health and wellbeing are dependent on many elements; however, breath is the unsung hero. Learning how to relax is as simple as breathing in and breathing out.
Why not practise right now?
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