What do yoga, massage therapy, energy work, Zen meditation, Mindfulness meditation and HeartMath have in common?
Each of these modalities uses deep breathing to help you to relax, center and release stress from the body-mind. And the beauty of using breath work for well-being is that it can be done anywhere, anytime.
Keri Tuit, Psy.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University, is quoted as saying in a 2014 article, “Breathing is one of the most important connections between your mind and your body.”
Here’s how she says it works: “When the pressure starts mounting […] you go into fight-or-flight mode, and your brain releases a cascade of tension-triggering hormones that cause the heart to race. But you can reverse that process by lengthening your inhales and exhales, which has a two-fold outcome: Measured deep breathing automatically slows down your heartbeat and relaxes your entire body … and as you concentrate on your breathing, you become less focused on your worries, making recovery from stress easier.”
Breath work is one of the first self-care techniques I teach retreat guests at Your Liminal Space, and then we pair it with other strategies, such as walking, mirror work, visualizations and journaling.
In the tradition of Mindfulness mediation, which I personally use daily, you begin seated in a comfortable position with feet flat on the floor and eyes closed or staring at a focal point on the floor in front of you. Breathing normally, notice where your breath is when you inhale. How far does it go down into your body? Is it in the throat, chest, below the diaphragm or deeper into the belly?
Many discover their breath to land in the upper chest area. This is quite normal in our fast paced world. We literally don’t take the time to breathe deeply.
Place one hand over your lower belly, and with every successive breath, very gently breathe toward your hand. Expand the belly outward with the in-breath and contract it with out-breath. Physically, this helps your lungs fill with more oxygen and pushes out more carbon dioxide from your body, which maximizes the oxygen to your bloodstream.
This may feel unusual at first but, with focused attention, imagining your breath moving more fully and deeply into your body, you will soon be able to breathe quite naturally in this way.
Practice this kind of breathing each day for 5 or 10 minutes, and then increase to 20 minutes or longer when it feels right to you. I invite you to notice how you feel before you begin your breathing practice … and then how you feel afterward.
When you do something wonderful for your body-mind, it becomes easy and natural to implement a strategy such as mindful breathing when you need it.
Which brings me to the important question: When do you need it?
Be an observer in your own life. Recall your day and notice the when, where, what, why and with whom your stress peaks. Watch for these triggers in the days ahead and try using your breath to face into them with a sense of balance and calm.
Many Blessings, Plynn