It’s amazing to me that something we do automatically our entire lives can have such an immediate positive effect on our being whenever done consciously. I’m coming to realize that anything done with mindfulness becomes a joyous act… but nothing demonstrates this more clearly than conscious breathing.
Try it right now. Become aware of your breath: notice when you breathe in and when you breathe out. Are you breathing quickly or slowly? Are you breathing through your mouth or your nose? Are you breathing shallowly, into your chest? Or are you breathing deeply, into your diaphragm? (If you don’t have any experience with deep breathing, lay down on the floor with your hands over your belly button and think about breathing into your hands… try to use your breath to make your belly raise and lower.) To get the full benefits of conscious breathing, you’ll want to breathe slowly, deeply, in and out through your nose, exhaling completely.
Try counting to 10 when you breathe: Inhale…2…3…4…Exhale…6…7…8…9…10. (The exhale count is longer to make sure you empty yourself of breath; use your abdominals to control the exhale.) Next, try adding a pause between the inhale and the exhale: Inhale…2…3…4…5….Pause…2…3…4…5…Exhale…2…3…4…5. (I like to do even counts when including a pause, but if I have any air left after I hit “5” I do a little abdominal contraction to push out the last bit of air before beginning my next inhale.) Note: do not think of the pause as “holding your breath” it is a relaxing moment between the activities of drawing the breath in and pushing the breath out. After a few cycles of conscious breathing in this manner, you’ll feel noticeable changes in your body: an overall sense of well being, a decrease in stress, an increase in bliss.
If you’ve got a good imagination, adding in the visualization of drawing in golden light with each inhalation, following it down into your body, watching it expand your abdomen, gathering any negative energy from your being and taking it back up and out of your body with each exhalation will have added benefits. Of course, there are countless visualizations you can do with conscious breathing. Another of my favorites is to put your hand on your Heart Center (not to the left like you’re saying the Pledge of Allegiance, centered over your breastbone,) breathe deeply but imagine the breath is expanding the energy of your Heart Chakra; imagine an emerald green light glowing brighter and expanding underneath your hand with each breath. You can do this with all of the chakra centers, focusing on each one at a time and expanding the color vibration associated with each specific chakra, but I believe it’s important for everyone to at least take a moment each day to reconnect with their Heart.
Now, I know I just got a little “woo-woo” there but, there are proven positive physiological effects gained from deep breathing through the nose, vs shallow breathing through the mouth. Nose breathing slows down the breathing process because your nasal passages are smaller than your mouth, which allows your lungs time to absorb more oxygen from each exhalation. Mouth breathing causes carbon dioxide to be lost too quickly and oxygen absorption is decreased and a proper oxygen – carbon dioxide exchange is necessary for your blood to maintain a balanced pH. Breathing through your nose also warms and filters the air for your lungs, something that mouth-breathing does not do. When your body is receiving the proper amount of oxygen, stress is decreased, blood health and heart health are improved and the immune system is strengthened. Taking a few slow deep breaths also helps calm your mind to help you think more clearly so it’s a useful step in any decision making process.
I invite you to spend one minute today doing a deep breathing exercise, whether it’s one I described above or another you learned elsewhere. If you already did it while reading this blog, wonderful! Do it again. 🙂 It won’t hurt. In fact, it will only help. And a minute isn’t much time at all when you think about it. Try it while you’re sitting at a red light… or while standing in line at the post office… or while heating up your lunch in the microwave at work (or while blending your smoothie! 😉 ) … you can do this anywhere, any time throughout your day and receive the benefits. Just try it!