Why Breathe? Silly question. You know- that dying thing. But what I mean here is – why breathe with consciousness, with intention, with volume? Why breathe deeply, deliciously, divinely?
Breathing in a healthy deep manner can help heal your body, mind and spirit. It does this in several ways; cleansing, calming, recalibrating and revitalizing. Here are some principle benefits from learning and practicing a slow deep breath.
The breath is one of the five ways that the body rids itself of toxins. It is beneficial to exhale deeply slowly and completely (not to the point of dizziness or exhaustion) but enough. This will allow the toxins to be removed from the nooks and crannies of the deepest recess of your lungs.
A slow deep breathing rhythm can improve your cardiovascular system, lowering the blood pressure and increasing heart function. It can improve your respiratory system; keeping the ribs flexible will allow the lungs to expand and contract in easy efficient manner, keeping the diaphragm loose and strong. It also invigorates the digestive system. The breath can improve the lymph system increasing your immunity by moving the lymph through the body (another system of detoxification and cleansing.)
We can revive ourselves with a breath practice; increasing energy and mental alertness. A slow shallow breath can lead us into unnecessary tension and anxiety, or may lead us into feeling of being tired or sedated. A series of conscious slow full breaths can clean out the cobwebs and revitalize us. It can soothe anxiety and bring us back to balance.
The breath can release and prevent muscle tension. As we breathe with conscious awareness we bring our attention to our inner landscape and can catch ourselves before tension takes a firm hold.
Our past, the artifacts, the shadows, the muscle memories of difficulty or trauma are implanted in our cells. We might not be aware of them; but they impact and inform what we do and how we face the world. Our past can influence how we interpret what we are presented with in life. A slow deep breath, a series of breaths, allows us to discern these feelings and make conscious choices about what we do next. Eventually the remnant of our past, like a long ago sliver, will move to the surface to be expelled. The breath has amazing power to heal the past.
Finally – the breath helps heal the nervous system. Growing up in chaos, in unpredictability, or having made choices that put you into a chaotic unpredictable and perhaps dangerous lifestyle has an impact on the nervous system. These can have an influence on our default breathing rhythm; short and shallow. Due to this the nervous system gets set in ALARM mode; always looking for the next danger, being hyperalert, ready to defend or deny or to disappear. These are nervous system coping mechanisms that are accompanied by a short, shallow breath rhythm. This message comes from the brain to the body (freeze, feel, or fight) and conversely a short breath tells the brain “I am in danger, keep looking around, be alert, don’t rest, investigate for harm.” This can create an exhausting and anxiety filled life.
Today, facing life on life’s terms, we can use the respiratory system as a gauge for what is going on in the field of our unconscious mind. Triggering events will speed the breath and make it shallow. We can take note and ask ourselves: “Why is this happening? Why is this event having this effect on me?” What can you do to bring yourself back to the present moment? How can you discern what is going on around you REALLY? The breath. The breath can guide you back to now.
While we say that feelings are not facts- feelings are real. They deserve to be seen and felt and regarded. However, when they rule us, when they demand we behave, react, or go back in time they are not useful. Being able to hold the feelings in the right size, and to choose action or nonaction can be assisted by breathing. Full deep belly breathing.
So why breathe?
To gain quiet, to find calm, to heal the nervous system, to be able to make conscious choices to unconsciously driven triggers. Breathe slowly to heal, to move back into your body. Breathe to become whole.
A brief primer in practicing deep belly breath.
- Give yourself five, maybe ten minutes free of distractions. Sit or lie down in a comfortable, quiet place.
- Give yourself a moment to start releasing your muscles. Seek out places that are holding tension and gradually let it go.
- Begin to find a slower pace of breathing. You can do this as you inhale deeply. filling your lungs with air, bringing the air into your abdomen; below your chest. See if you can count slowly as you inhale (whatever number you end with is “your” number”.)
- Exhale deeply, emptying your lungs completely. Again, counting your number slowly as you exhale. As you exhale, continue to release tensions from your muscles.
- Continue to inhale and exhale deeply for several minutes, counting slowly each time; the exhale as long if not longer than the inhale. Concentrate on your breathing and counting. Let your mind take a break from distractions.