Breathing comes naturally to all of us, right? So naturally, in fact, we can trust that it will still happen even if we never pay it any attention. But perhaps it’s time to give back to our breath a little more, because doing so leads to even more benefits from it!
Benefits of breathing
It seem obvious, right? We breath therefore we are, (alive!) This is true, the automatic process of breathing in and out is one of several systems that keeps us living. The exchange of oxygen for the body for waste products like carbon dioxide from the body is a part of the process of homeostasis – keeping the body in balance.
But thinking about breathing for a moment ahas so much more to offer.
Why do we need to take a breath
For most people in the modern world, we live incredibly busy lives. Finding peace, calmness and rest amongst all the demands is difficult to say the least. Now we can go looking for it in all manner of places, but using some attention for our breath may well be the simplest and most effective mode of inner peace-keeping!
When we are anxious our breathing does one of two things: it becomes short and shallow, the precursor to hyperventilation or it becomes laboured and effortful. Both are not avenues to relaxation and they do nothing to aid the building muscular tension that is in our bodies.
As a massage therapist I have seen all too commonly how unaware we are of the tensions in our bodies. If we are tense, breathing is harder work, if we find breathing harder our bodies get more tense. And the more tense we are the harder our bodies are working so the more oxygen they need. See how this becomes a vicious cycle!
Start with a sigh
To release all this tension, start with a sigh. We have grown to understand sighing is only related to an emotional response, but a sigh is its own pleasure too! Take some time to try sighing for the sake of sighing. As you do, your breath becomes lighter and easier as the muscles around your breath relax and release. You also hear your breath more clearly so you wake up some conscious attention on it.
A simple focus on your breath does wonders to offer perspective. You are breathing and as you realise this you can start to put what is in front of you in perspective. While you are breathing, whatever lays ahead is more possible than if you weren’t. While you have attention on your breathing, you can feel whether you are getting wound up or ground down and can adjust your breath back to where it is when you feel calm.
If an image helps you, why not imagine waves lapping a beach or breathing the cool air from a cliff top or mountain peak. Breath, meditation and imagery have always gone hand-in-hand and are worth exploring too!
As you adjust your breath so you adjust your mood, filling your body with calmness as well as oxygen!
Breath first, speak later
Speaking before taking a breath is so common for us too and is another root of speeding up way beyond our capacity. So why not practice taking a breath before replying? Very simple, it offers a moment of silence between phrases and this can be all that is needed for everyone involved to really hear what it is you have to say. It also means your voice will emerge from a relaxed breath, calmer, clearer and more articulate.
So, while I trust you already will be breathing, why not give it some conscious attention and sicker the benefits of breathing in your day!