Conscious breathing increases quality of life
Breathing is slowly changing my life.
We breathe 24/7 – awake and asleep. This is pretty straightforward stuff but how aware of your breathing? I wasn’t aware for many years.
I started regular 1 x weekly Hatha yoga about one and a half years ago. My intention for yoga wasn’t to pursue an intense, physical challenge but to build dedicated time to simply be still and breathe. I needed a moment of planned stillness. My life is similar to many where every moment seems busy and booked. A couple of years ago I started to realize that my breathing was always in reactive mode – pushing out and shallow. This realization happened partly because of my own personal development journey but also because I was feeling physical symptoms of being in a continual state of fight. We are aware of our three physiological reactions to a perceived harmful attack, event or threat to survival – flight, fight or freeze. It is my belief that most of us are experiencing one of these states more than we realize or are aware of. When our bodies and minds are under this pressure, it can have an impact on your health, quality of life, relationships and even determine how you interact with society at large – at the workplace, home and out with friends.
Learning to consciously breathe can decrease the state of constantly reacting to situations and environments. It provides space to slow down your mind, relax your body and get some good, old fashion oxygen to all the parts of your body. Take a moment now to see where you are breathing in your body? Is it a deep belly breathe or is it mainly up in your chest? Do you have a quick turnaround with inhaling and exhaling or is it slow and intentional? These quick check-ins will let you know how your body is reacting to your environ and situations.
Creating dedicated time, even for two minutes a day, to pause, breathe deeply and intentionally slow down your mind will help to decrease our constant state of reaction (flight, fight or freeze).
Over the past year, I have expanded my exploration of breathing with meditation and breathwork. I attend a meditation class at The Inner Space that has two components – 1) learning about meditation, and 2) learning the tools to meditate. Both components appeal to my academia side as well as receiving tools to meditate on my own. There are a lot of benefits to meditation and research such as this study on “8 weeks to a better brain” by Harvard is backing up those claims. To learn more about how meditation affects the brain, here is an article that provides a comprehensive overview. Meditation is also becoming quite trendy so much so that an app called Headspace has been downloaded over 5 million times and is being used by celebrities. From my own personal experience, this practice has had a profound impact on reducing stress, having more energy, increasing good feeling vibes such as love, gratitude and gentleness and tapping into my creative, feminine energy. I am simply a better person after I meditate.
I’ve mentioned breathwork which is a type of conscious breathing. I’ve practiced breathwork in the form of guided circular breathing – relating it to an ocean wave that comes in to shore and then back out. There is no pause in receiving or giving (exhaling) your breathe and can be slow or fast in nature depending on how deep you want to go. Although not scientifically established or proven (there are limited studies thus far on the impact of breathwork and newbies must be guided as it can lead to hyperventilation), Mary Ellen Flescher, a breathwork teacher says that it can help to ‘let go’, find creative inspiration, connect deeper with your spirituality and body/mind, as well as help to meditate easier and experience profound insights that inspire action.
For myself, breathwork has been a major component in healing from a traumatic experience as well as accessing my very own crazy, deep creativity that has benefitted my business and self expression.
Conscious breathing is creating those moments of stillness. Whether a two minute pause, a 10 minute meditation or a 90 minute yoga session, consider what is possible for you within your day. Breathing deeply can be invigorating and it can help to slow down those racing thoughts. It’ll provide clarity. It will put you in a better place to interact and re-act with the world around you. It will increase love for yourself and others. What is better than that?