Breathing is one of the most effective tools to calm the nervous system, lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate, and soothe the mind. Learning how to neutralize stress through the breath becomes a sacred tool for healing in a world where so much illness is a product of stress. After you accomplish breathing practices, you will wonder how you ever lived without them! Between us, it will change your life in the most astonishing ways.
Breathing is an excellent indicator of health. In moments of tension, we tend to choke ourselves of breath, gasping when we’re alarmed. Because of our inability to balance our busy lives with rest and healing, we tend to go to the sympathetic nervous system’s fight, flight, or freeze response, the body’s instinctual way of getting us out of danger when a threat appears. In this state of threat, the breath is shallow, sometimes inaudible, and feels separate from the body. The trouble is that our sympathetic nervous system can enter this mode due to regular, everyday stress—not just when a predator appears. This is a challenging way to live, contributing to rapid aging and the deterioration of organs, muscles, and tissues.
When we take a shallow breath, the breath only moves to the upper thoracic, the collarbone, which has limited benefits for our overall system. In this state of shallow breathing, we feel the breath as a burden instead of a valuable healing tool. When we separate from who we are, we get frustrated by our breath’s attempts to wake us up. When prompted to take a deep breath, some people incorrectly have the instinct to clench their bellies during the deep inhale, constricting the lungs and leaving no place for the air to go. The great news is that there is a solution we can access easily.
Three Minute Long Deep Breath Practice
- Sit in a chair or on the ground in a position that allows your spine the ability to lengthen. Use whatever pillows or props you need to make this position as comfortable as possible.
- Sit tall and feel the crown of your head reaching toward the sky.
- Tip your chin just enough to lengthen the back of the neck, so your breath can flow freely.
- Place your hands on your belly and breathe normally. Notice: Is your belly pulling in when you take a breath or is it pushing out? If your belly pulls in on the inhale, your breath will be shallow, with the air entering only the upper part of your lungs. When your belly expands with the inhale, your lungs inflate like a balloon and are filled with fresh air. This is the correct way to practice the Long, Deep Breath.
- Keep your hands on your belly as you practice. Inhale. Feel your chest lift and your belly and ribs expand. If your breath doesn’t make it to your belly at first, don’t worry. Allow it to go where it feels most natural, and work toward moving it deeper and deeper into your body over time. With practice and dedication, it will happen.
- Exhale. Feel your belly and ribs release and deflate, first from your belly and up to your chest. Let all the air from your lungs go.
- Start again.
- Repeat the breath for three minutes. Rest on your back or in a seated position for three minutes.
- You did it! Congratulations.
- Repeat for 40 days and watch the magic unfold.
Optional: As you do this simple practice, meditate on where you have been holding pain and how much it has been troubling you. It might be physical, mental or emotional; use the breath to investigate its origin. Then ask yourself if you are willing to release it, soften to it rather than resist it. Ask yourself what would life feel like without it? How can I change the way I move, respond and feel to strengthen this part of me that has been hurting for so long?
I know first hand that life can sometimes distract us from the self-care practices we know can have a profound ability to create positive change within and around us. I encourage you to take a couple of moments every day and try breathing exercises that resonate most with you, and make a commitment to it for a month. After that month, take inventory of yourself and the improvements you have witnessed and the benefit it has had in your life and then simply take the next steps to a overall healthier and happier you from there
Peace & Light,