“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Marcus Aurelius
Prana. Breath. Life force. Our breath is a precious gift that has the power to do so much more than just keep us alive from moment to moment. To discover its power, we must first learn to appreciate it, then focus on it, learn how it works and practice different breathing techniques, or pranayama. In this post, I’m hoping to inspire you to be more mindful of your breath throughout each day, explore different kinds of breathing and use your breath to be your best, happiest, calmest self.
As you awaken each morning, place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly, and begin to observe the miracle that is your breath. Breathe deeply in and out the nose. With every rise and fall of your belly, give gratitude for what awaits you that day – your passion/work, your loved ones and even the challenges, known and unknown, that will make you better by the day’s end. Then, as you arise and go throughout your day, remember that precious gift you are carrying with you, and remember you can call upon it to help you in many different situations.
Mental Clarity and Energy
Who couldn’t use a little more energy and mental clarity? Breath to the rescue! When you feel your energy waning and your focus wandering, that’s the time to check in with your body and breath. Oftentimes when we feel sluggish, if we take our awareness to our body, we will find we have let our posture go, our breath is not moving freely, and we aren’t breathing deep, cleansing, invigorating breaths. That’s the root of the problem – unawareness.
Energy and clarity are only a few breaths away. Sit or stand up nice and tall. Roll your shoulders back and relax the shoulder blades down your back as you broaden your collar bones and open your heart. Lengthen your spine from head to tailbone as you gently pull your chin slightly back. Now begin breathing deeply in and out the nose, while trying to make your inhalations and exhalations of equal length. Focus on the sound of your breath and the feel of your breath as it goes in the nostrils and down the throat into the lungs.
These deep breaths will increase the oxygen in your blood which will help increase your energy and help you to think more clearly. The more you practice it, the more natural it will become to be mindful of your breath. Once you’ve mastered equal breath, you can join a yoga class to learn other types of breath that can help you. If you don’t have access to a yoga class and want to explore another type of breath that can bring you more energy and mental clarity, search “breath of fire” on the internet or YouTube. It stimulates the solar plexus and generates heat and energy. It is a more advanced technique, so be sure you study it thoroughly and know contraindications to practicing it.
“Anger is like a storm rising up from the bottom of your consciousness. When you feel it coming, turn your focus to your breath.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Too often, we let anger steal our joy. “Let” is a strong word because I think that makes it sound like we don’t mind, when the truth is, anger usually sneaks up on us, and we feel powerless to do anything about it, except to let it run its course. That course is different for everyone. Some people repress it, while others stomp and scream it out. There is a better way, and that is to breathe, not just any type of breathing, but slow, deep, equal breaths that will help to calm the nervous system. The same breath that helps to invigorate you can also help to calm you.
When we are upset, we tend to breathe in a shallow way that is just in the chest. We don’t fully expand the lungs. Breathing this way on a consistent basis causes us to be more stressed, thus, it is easier for us to become angry which creates more stress. In other words, it creates a vicious cycle. Our body secretes stress hormones that raise heart rate and blood pressure as a fight or flight response. The way we breathe influences this whole process.
Don’t let anger steal your joy or your health. Use your breath to keep calm, and remember no one can have any power over you that you don’t give them. No one can make you mad; you choose to be mad. Choose to breathe instead. Another type of breath to explore that is calming and balancing is “alternate nostril breathing.” As suggested above, either find a yoga class where an experienced teacher can guide you, or research it on your own.
I’m sure at least one time in your life as you were going through a stressful situation, some well-meaning person told you to “just breathe.” I had been told that many times in my life, but I refused to “take ten deep breaths” because no one could tell me how it worked. Since they couldn’t tell me how it worked, I didn’t think they knew what they were talking about. When I went through training as a yoga instructor, I learned the secret of how just breathing could calm me down, reduce my stress and give me energy.
When we breathe deeply and mindfully, our parasympathetic nervous system triggers the body to secrete hormones that decrease the heart rate and blood pressure. As our vital signs normalize, we have more of a sense of well-being. As we use our breath to help control body functions, our body rewards us with greater health and a feeling of calm. We have so much more power over our health and moods than most of us know. It just takes awareness and practice.
“Breathe. Let go, and remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” Oprah Winfrey
Taking time to slow down and focus on the breath also helps us to find greater awareness and appreciation for our lives. Focusing on the breath is a tool that keeps us in the present moment. As we use our breath to become calmer and more aware, we will be better able to hear our inner voice and make decisions that are true to who we really are. Our breath helps us to hear deep within as all the excess falls away. Remember the power your breath holds.
I hope I’ve gotten you excited about all the things your breath can do for you. It has the power to calm, focus and invigorate you. It has the power to lower your heart rate and blood pressure as well as control many other functions of the body. Not only is your breath a power, it’s a super power! Remember that the next time you feel sluggish, mentally scattered or irritated. Just breathe. Breathe and savor the moment and your power in it. Namaste’.
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment. ~Thich Nhat Hanh