Have you ever thought ‘How do I breathe?’ It is the most natural thing in the world; we barely give it any thought. Even when we sleep, we don’t have to remember to breathe. Despite this, we cannot live without it. Don’t underestimate its potential!
Our breath can be a powerful tool. It is the bridge between our body and our mind. The breath is our life force, our energy. It can soothe our nerves, release tension and bring calmness to the mind. One example of breathing with awareness is in stress reduction.
In times of stress and anxiety, consciously controlling the breath is key to breaking negative patterns. The causes and effects of stress are well documented and manifests in a range of physical symptoms and health problems.
One important symptom of stress is shallower and faster breathing which can perpetuate anxiety. Although this is a physiological response, we can override it, take manual control and break the negative cycle. If we change the way we breathe, we can bring our body and mind back into balance. Being aware of how we breathe, we can reverse some of these negative knock-on effects. Of course, the source of stress doesn’t go away, but reduced anxiety levels may help us deal with situations better.
When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath.
~Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Here are two simple breathing techniques, which will help you harness the power of your breath. They will only take 5-10minutes to feel a little calmer and focused.
Breathing with Awareness
Now sit comfortably on the floor or a chair, sit up straight and lengthen your spine, relax your shoulders.
Take a deep breath, in through your nose and let out a big sigh, Haaaaa. Repeat this a few times. Really feel your body settle. Close your eyes and let your mind focus on here and now. Smile, you are about to experience the calming power of breathing.
Bring one hand to your belly and the other to your chest. Sit and breathe normally. Start to become aware of your breathing pattern.
Don’t try to change anything, just sit for a few moments, gaining an understanding of how you are breathing now.
Ask yourself the following questions;
- Is my breath shallow with more focus on the chest or is it deeper into my belly?
- What emotions am I feeling? Am I Calm, Relaxed, Anxious, Stressed or Irritated?
Be an observer. Do not get caught up in your thoughts and emotions, but just watch them, like passing by clouds on a warm summers day.
Focus the mind on your inhale and exhale. Notice the temperature of the air as it comes in, and the way it changes to it during its journey through your lungs.
Continue with the breath awareness. Now reposition both of your hands on your belly.
Start to breathe a little deeper, but not into the upper chest, direct the breath to your belly and towards your hands. You will start to notice your belly and hands move out on an inhale. Your belly moves as the diaphragm is moved down to make more room for the lungs to fill.
As you breathe out fully, notice your belly draws back towards your spine. Make sure all the air is released out before inhaling again. You will naturally take a deeper breath in with the next inhalation.
Do not force this, ease into this technique. Your breathing pattern should start to feel steady and even. If you feel like you are running out of air too quickly, soften your breath. Relax with each exhale.
Practice this calming breathing technique for at least 5 breaths; you can continue to breathe like this for up to 10 minutes.
Return to a natural breathing pattern, just as your body knows how to. Before you finish this exercise, notice how you are much more relaxed, calmer and more focused than from the start.
Practising Breath Awareness and Deep Breathing are very useful yoga breathing techniques. Making small steps can be the start of new healthier and balanced breathing patterns. Remember that life will always twist, turn and change at every corner. The one thing that threads our life all together is our ever constant breath.