Breathing is the one physical function that is both autonomic (involuntary or unconscious, automatic), like our heart beating, and consciously controlled, like our limbs, with the innate ability to engage with full intent and awareness. This shows that breathing is a direct link between the body and mind. It is an extremely significant part of life, and wouldn’t you say, the most important? For what need is more urgent and vital than the breath? What we will explore here, is not only breathing to survive, but breathing to thrive.
Babies are born breathing the right way, naturally. However, as we experience trauma and stress, our breathing patterns are disrupted and altered. At first the diaphragm, this powerful muscle, expands and contracts to pull the air in and push it out with each inhale and exhale. Through life’s stress and trauma, we start to breathe shallow, using only the top of our lungs. It is the bottom, however, that absorbs the most oxygen. This shallow breathing has taken over, keeping people in the state of anxiety and depression. It is the unconscious state of the human being, unknowingly rejecting life itself. If you ever are feeling down or not right, pay attention to your breathing. Are you breathing shallow? Now, in a state of sheer bliss or deep relaxation, how are you breathing? The mind and the breath are totally linked and inseparable. As you change your breathing, you change your state of mind.
When you exercise, your body’s need for oxygen increases, and the breath intensifies. This is a wonderful feeling I’ve always enjoyed, the effortless deepening and amplification of the breath. In meditation, you would normally be sitting still, and applying breathing techniques, or simply just observing the breath. The magic of the breath, as it is emphasized in the art and practice of meditation, is that you can only breathe in the present moment. By paying attention to your breath, you are bringing yourself to the present moment, which is the most precious and relevant place to bring your full attention. By breathing correctly, deeply, and fully, you are embracing life, embracing yourself and embracing this moment. It is the greatest gift you can give yourself. We can go deeper into this when we dive into the topic of meditation. For now, let’s make sure we know how to breathe properly and start practicing right away! The more you practice, the more natural it becomes, and the greater quality of life and well being will foster within you.
Gently rest your hand on your belly. Push out all the air possible, bringing your belly button (and hand along with it) towards your spine. The exhale is super important, as you need to get rid of all that stale air to make room for fresh new air to enter. Now, slowly relax the bottom of your belly, inhaling as you relax, filling yourself from the bottom up, like a cup. First the bottom of your belly with fill with air, then the middle, then the top all the way up your chest. Fill yourself and feel a nice stretch all over. Now exhale from the top down, dropping the chest, then pushing the air out with your diaphragm. As you inhale deeply, the diaphragm massages all the organs. As you exhale deeply, the diaphragm massages the heart and lungs. Imagine this continuous massage, of deep breathing, as a constant act of self love.