In these difficult times, many of us feel we are choking – from violence, smoke, anxiety, conflict, exhaustion. So I’m sharing this blog post (revised since its original appearance in 2012).
Breath! Yes indeed.
We breathe all the time. Don’t let it get boring. Use it for the energy-source it is.
We are swimming in air, and we take it for granted. We can’t see it, taste it, touch it, yet it constantly nurtures and energizes us.
We’ve all had moments when just breathing felt satisfying.
But we tend to forget to breathe well.
We get stressed, tense, bummed-out. “Just gotta get through this, then maybe I can breathe.” We clamp our lungs down for any number of reasons.
Notice how we instinctively hold our breath when a tense moment arises, or when something is said that we do not want to hear.
We block that moment and resist it by stopping the breath.
Apprehensive, we take in smaller puffs of air, high in the chest, suffocating a bit.
When we relax and breathe deeply into the belly, we allow ourselves to hear and experience life more fully.
In a lifetime of stress, we may develop the habit of breathing only into the tops of our lungs, using a fraction of our lung capacity.
Less breath means less energy.
Biologically speaking, our cells suffer from lack of oxygen and the entire body feels weaker.
Metaphysically speaking, breath is literally filled with prana, chi, light, energy.
You can notice the difference within a minute, as you take a few good breaths.
Call it relaxation, ease, release: your body and mind feel better immediately.
As you develop a healthy-breathing habit, you will gain more physical energy and the ability to de-stress the moment you wish to do so.
Often pain decreases when you breathe deeper and slower. Anxiety and pain are tied together, and they loosen up together. We’ve all experienced this.
Belly Breathing is our first step toward more energy. Ever watch a sleeping baby breathe? Their chest doesn’t move. Their round belly is rising and falling. We all naturally did this as infants.
When the belly expands, the diaphragm pulls air all the way down deep, filling the entire lungs with sweet oxygen. If you’ve been in yoga class, you know belly breathing.
Place your hands on your belly now, and take a slow deep breath. Does your belly stretch outward? This is good.
The belly should expand big on the in-breath and collapse smaller on the out-breath. If this is not happening, it means you’re using only the tops of your lungs. You’re missing out on your full capacity.
If you tend to hold your belly in tight to look more attractive – is it really worth suffocating yourself? Be floppy and free!
You can easily teach yourself to belly breathe. Place your hands on your abdomen and engage your abdominal muscles. On the inhale, stretch your belly out expansively. On the exhale, contract it inward. Soon this will come naturally.
Your body will be happier and more relaxed when it re-learns belly breathing.
Belly breathe for all of the following methods.
Calm Breath Counts
Counting with the inhale/exhale is used in many traditions.
You don’t need a full second for each number – just count at your own speed – but make it a steady count throughout. Some methods have you holding your breath for a few beats.
Among the many “counting breath” options, here are two for calming down. Neither one holds the breath.
The long exhalations automatically turn on more relaxation hormones, relieve stress, lower blood pressure, and relax the fight/flight response.
Just count steadily in, and out. Smooth.
In-breath: 1-2-3 Out-breath: 4-5-6-7-8
In-breath: 1-2 Out-breath: 3-4-5-6-7-8
Heating Energizing Breath Counts
These two breath counts are rapid, cleansing, and heating-you-up. They can bring in extra energy when you are fatigued.
They can also ramp up energy for hands-on-healing to yourself or others.
Always breathe from the belly. Do these heating breaths very briefly, because they can make you dizzy. Return soon to gentle slow belly breathing.
1:4 – one big full breath in, four counts out. Like so – In: 1! Out: 2-3-4-5.
Fire Breathing – You’ve done this in yoga class: rapid in-out-in-out-in-out like a choo-choo train, as your belly moves fast out and in. Limit this to only 5 to 7 breaths. Don’t hyperventilate. Rest a moment before repeating.
Always return to gentle belly breathing.
Melting Breath is my name for a yummy breath style I learned from Brugh Joy’s 1979 book, Joy’s Way.
Melting breath feels soothing and energizing.
If you can feel, sense, or even imagine subtle energies, this melting breath may be quite delicious for you. (In fact it provided instant relief for my body while on-the-job in ICU.)
Brugh Joy MD simply calls it “breath control” and presents it as a ten-breath preliminary before deep meditation. You may want to use it that way, or try it for refreshment. It goes like this:
1- Take a long deep belly-expanding breath as you sense/imagine beautiful light completely filling your lungs.
2 – Hold gently for a count of 7.
3 – Place your tongue at the roof of your mouth, just behind your front teeth, and exhale over your tongue, out your mouth, making a soft hissing sound. (Can also be done without any sound.)
4 – This makes a slow drawn-out exhale, during which you sense/imagine all that beautiful light flooding into every cell of your body, in every direction.
I call it melting breath because it makes my whole body melt, easing every tight muscle.
(It’s fine to shorten the holding phase, if you like. It’s fine to relax your tongue for a silent exhale.)
Heart Breath is recommended by the Institute of HeartMath.
Use deep relaxed belly-breath, but imagine the breath flows directly into your heart.
Imagine bringing air in through the center of your chest, straight into your heart.
As you continue breathing into your heart, think upon a beautiful memory or someone you love. Amplify your sense of gratitude for these.
Stay in this loving appreciating space, as you continue breathing into your heart.
This is a de-stressing method that gradually dissolves chronic anxiety and enhances your life toward happiness.
The HeartMath site (www.heartmath.org) offers tons of scientific research showing how attitude impacts us biologically.
Whether you engage your breath to relax or energize or explore subtle prana life force, it is an adventure.
The more you play with breath and meditation, the more you will sense real life force moving up and down your spine as you breathe.
From there we begin to know there’s a whole lot more going on for us than just our physical body . . .
Diane Stallings RN does distance healing, EFT tapping, ancestral clearing, and/or Biofield Tuning on the phone, energy healing sessions, Chakra Balancing, and health coaching.
She gives you practical ways to lift your wellbeing.
Make an appointment in Phoenix or Fountain Hills.