The Beautiful Breath

When was the last time you actually took notice of your breath? When was the last time you felt the rhythmic motion of your lungs drawing in the cool air through your nostrils?

I know I never paid much attention to my breathing, when I was living at home and going through a stressful time, Mum (who is a yoga teacher) would often gently say Carla-Jo you’re hardly breathing!! This would just irritate me and I’d probably just hold my breath even more!!! I was totally disconnected from my breath. When I was feeling particularly anxious I would unconsciously hold my breath, my chest would feel tight like I couldn’t breath, it was really scary. This way of breathing became a pattern even when I wasn’t feeling worried or panicked.
When we feel stressed, anxious or depressed we often hold our breath or breathe very shallowly. This affects our overall sense of well-being and can create layers of tension in the body. In mindfulness connection with the breath is integral. We build up a relationship with the breath, begin to notice the rhythms it creates in our body, we are curious about all aspects of it.

I invite you now to just take a minute to explore your breath, see if you can bring all of your awareness to the sensation of the breath flowing in and out of the body. See what you notice about your breath? Remember to be non-judgmental and kind to yourself, see if you can note just the sensations without allowing any stories surrounding them to arise.

You may find you tend to breathe more from the upper chest area, we often find we breathe from here when we are feeling stressed. The best form of breathing for our well-being is diaphragmatic breathing. So instead of breathing from the upper chest we breathe from the area below our ribcage. This movement is caused by our diaphragm muscle below the lungs. When the diaphragm flattens on the in breath it causes our belly to swell out wards moving the internal organs, giving them a lovely massage and fresh supply of oxygen and blood. The spine is also gently rocked.

By breathing in this way we can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system the part of the nervous system which is associated with relaxation, and calmness. When we focus on the sensation of breathing it can help to break the ruminating cycle of unhelpful thoughts, our awareness becomes anchored in the body.  This process helps us to become more aware of the present moment. You can only ever be with the sensations of your breath in the here and now. When we are with the rising and falling of the breath, resistance to or tightening around stress or pain begins to soften our experience of anxiety will reduce.

So see if you can take just a few minutes a day being with your breath. First just becoming aware of your whole body, it’s sensations, any thoughts you may be having and then focus your attention more on the breathe. If you get distracted by thoughts, just gently noticed that and bring your attention back to the breath. Then after a minute or so expand your awareness back out to your whole body again being with what you find in a non-judgmental and kind way. Then see how you feel. By practicing this everyday even at times when you’re not stressed you can begin to develop an inner calm so that when you do get stressed or feel anxious you can use this powerful tool with more effect.

This form of breathing transformed my experience of anxiety and I now see my breath as a close friend who is always to help bring me into the present moment and is a huge support in times of need. It’s incredible how something so simple as paying attention to the breath can be so deeply powerful!


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