Breath is life…we all breath consciously or not, we are all breathing all day every day. All of us are breathing well enough to stay alive…but are we breathing well enough to thrive?
The average adult breathes between 17,000 and 30,000 times per day while at rest. This rate speeds up with exercise or stress– up to as many as 50,000 times per day.
Breath is essential to life, bringing in much needed oxygen and sending out CO2–our bodies largest waste product. Oxygen is essential to cellular metabolic activity. Cells are the building bocks of our entire body. Without proper oxygenation our cells cannot perform their duties and the body starts to breakdown.
So basically we have, at a minimum, 17,000 times per day to enhance our cellular function improving our bodies ability to function. And we all know the better our body functions the better we feel….so lets grab at least a few of those 17,000 possible moments each and every day to enhance our lives.
Step 1: Become aware of your breath. Allow your attention to settle onto your breath and just notice your own breath. Ask yourself a few questions to help you increase your awareness–How does it feel to be breathing right now? Are you breathing deeply or shallowly? quickly or slowly? thru the nose or the mouth? is it easy to breath? is it easier to inhale or exhale? Basically just allowing yourself to notice the sensations associated with your breath.
Easy right? we can all d that a few times a day…..right? We just need to remember to do it….so tie a string around your finger and every time you notice the string check in with the breath– you will begin to see how often you breathe and become aware of the quality of your breath 🙂 (if a string seems a bit much, put a band aid around your little finger–same effect with less obvious implications to the rest of the world)
Step 2: place your hand on your belly, and see if your breath moves the belly at all. Most of the time, we breath with the chest–totally ignoring the belly..in fact we have been trained to suck that belly in….not allowing any movement and really strangling our organs–(so not only are our cells not getting fully oxygenated they are being squeezed to death) or conversely–we allow our bellies to sag down and out, pulling our back and hips out of alignment which impeeds out ability to breath well and puts all kinds of negative strain on the back which eventually starts to effect our nerves causing pain!
So hand on the belly, is it moving with the breath? (Is it sucked in or pouched out? either way–is fine for the moment, just start to become aware of your habitual belly positioning.)
Step 3: Start to allow the belly to move with the breath…expanding as you inhale and gently softening as you exhale. You may have to fake this for a while, exaggerate the belly movement until you get the hang of it.
Step 4: Start to lengthen thru the exhalation…making your exhalations as long as you can. The exhalations is what we control, the inhalations will happen naturally as the body craves more air…so gently focusing on lengthening the exhalations, your body will naturally slow down the breath and lengthen thru the inhalations as well…allowing for way more oxygen to filter into our blood reaching out into all of our cells.
Step 5: Once you get the hang of this…pause between each inhalation and exhalation. Don’t hold your breath or anything, just simply pause for a moment at the top and bottom of each breath. This slight pause allows for the energy or chi or prana or life force or what ever you want to call the energy that pervades our world..to collect and grow within your body. Creating a nice reservoir of energy for our body to use when needed.
So yes, to answer the unasked question–simply breathing correctly can give you more energy–and really, who doesn’t need more energy? As you practice focusing your attention on the breath you build your ability to eventually control where all that energy build up can be directed.
But for now…lets just work on enhancing our breath for at least a few of the 17,000-30,000 times we perform the activity daily.
This simple breathing activity can be performed anytime you happen to think about it….easiest time to start is when in bed and you can’t sleep….lie on your back, hand on the belly and lengthen thru the exhalations, pausing at the top and bottom of each breath….you can add some counting in if you want–exhale for 7, hold for 2, inhale for 5, hold for 2….you should definitely fall into sleep in no time.
other opportune times: sitting at a stop light or stopped in traffic, waiting in line at the DMV, bank or grocery store. In the midst of a heated discussion…(this is always an interesting exploration into what your breath is doing…you may not be able to control it at that point…but it is always interesting.) while holding your favorite or not so favorite yoga pose, taking a walk, teeing up, reading a book, doing the dishes, or even receiving a massage.
Seriously–check in with the breath and practice some belly breathing daily..it will eventually become habitual, and your cells will thank you for it! It takes 30 days to start a habit–so commit to a daily belly breathing exercise for the next 30 days….you will be pleasantly surprised at the changes you notice!
Namaste everyone and happy breathing 🙂