As I begin to move down the alphabet in this blog series to the letter B, the joy of breath speaks to me. The breath is our life force. Without it we cannot live. It is also one of those things to which most people don’t give a great deal of thought, much like blinking our eyelids. Those functions simply happen automatically. Breathing is easy to take for granted.
The breath is powerful! As a former yoga teacher of mine used to say, “If you control the breath, you control the mind.” Just by turning our attention to our breath, it slows down and our body calms. It also calms our thoughts.
Stress is one of the biggest causes of illness. Taking long inhales and exhales calms nerves and anxiety. Exhaling for a longer duration than the inhale triggers the relaxation response which tells our body and mind that everything is okay. Even when our current stressors remain present, by controlling our breath this way we are better able to think clearly and execute a more productive response.
Taking deep full breaths and exhaling completely help clear toxins from our lungs and body which leads to better health. Better health. Clearer mind. Calmer body. The breath has the ability to change our perception of a situation. Deep breaths also help us to “buy time” so that we are better able to respond with purpose versus react with emotion and/or impulsivity. When we are in a relaxed state we are more in control of our emotions and behaviors, which impact our relationships and employment experiences.
Even after many years of breath practice through yoga and meditation, the extent of the breath’s importance did not hit me until three years ago when I visited my younger sister in the hospital. She was 38 years old then and living with the reality of a degenerative muscle disease (Myotonic Dystrophy). She struggled to exhale, resulting in too much breath.
Too much breath? There always needs to be a balance. The bottom line for her was that she did not have control over her breath. Her life force had lost its power. Watching her struggle to breathe increased my awareness of how often I overlook the act of breathing.
Since that moment, and after she passed away, I have been aware of my gratitude for my breath every day. As often as possible I breathe deeply and thankfully. The act of breathing brings life, power, energy, ambition, strength and control. How we breathe impacts our every experience.
Breathing deeply helps all of our bodily systems work more effectively. It increases the circulation of fluids and oxygen to our organs. Breathing deeply into our lower abdomen massages our internal organs and supports healthy digestion. Movement, ability to manage stress, capacity to learn and focus, relationships and even spirituality are all supported by regular deep breathing because of the overall calming effects to our body systems.
In our busy lives it is very easy to get into the habit of shallow breaths. We are always on alert for the never-ending notifications from our devices, to multi-tasking, to being ready to move or respond at a moment’s notice. Deep breaths help reduce our stress, increase our immunity, strength and agility, as well as support a calmer, healthier and more productive lifestyle.
Take a deep breath. Feel its power. Spread the joy.