When the breath wanders, the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed, the mind too will be still.
The more I grow in my knowledge of what I do, I’m noticing a lot of rushed, shallow breathing in people. It’s now the norm. Sadly even my kid’s natural breath isn’t deep. What’s interesting is the direct relationship between the breath and emotional (also mental) stimulus. When someone is excited, tense, angry, stressed, fearful or has an avalanche of thoughts cascading all at once, their breath is quickened and shallow. When they’re happy, calm, placid or in a restive state, their breath slows, deepens and becomes more expansive. Given the speed and stresses of modern life with the pressures to keep up with the deluge of information clamouring for our attention, its no wonder our breathing has become compromised to a degree.
“Chronic shallow breathing deprives us of energy because it reduces the working capacity of our respiratory system to about one-third of its potential, diminishes the exchange of gases, and deprives us of the natural healthy circulation of oxygen into our body.”, from Meditation: The Complete Guide, by Monaghan & Viereck, Chapter 5 Yoga Breathing.
Folk wisdom advises deep breathing as the antidote to managing stress and trauma. There’s a lot of truth in that.
When I was in Bali last year, a yoga teacher taught me yogic breathing Balinese style, which I’ve been using to great effect in alleviating the symptoms of my asthma. I’ve also started recently to share the same technique of breathing to everyone I come across, usually people who ask during energetic healing sessions.
First of all get in a comfortable position, either sitting or standing with legs uncrossed, feet flat on the floor. Breathe into your belly, four counts. Pause. Then breathe into your lungs, four counts. Pause. Exhale from your lungs, four counts. Pause. Exhale from your belly, four counts. Pause. Then start again.
Consciously practice this breathing exercise whenever you have a quiet moment to yourself. You can do it before you start meditating, while having a break between projects at work, walking to the bus stop, before you go to sleep. Even better, for you anxious people, if you think you’re about to have a mini emotional or mental meltdown, this exercise will instantly ground you and bring some relief to all that manic overthinking.
With regular practice, you’ll start to observe yourself breathing in this way more frequently. Like say, while you’re writing a blog post….ha ha ha. It’s a way to consciously slow down the flow of thoughts and emotions. Pausing to take more time to appreciate the moment. Observe what’s happening in your immediate surroundings and in your body. Feel more like you’re connecting with life rather than being just a bystander.
Hokay, time now for me to do my breathing exercise.