Mindful breathing doesn't stop with our meditation and yoga practice - it is something that needs to be brought into our everyday life.
Breathing can transform your life. It creates space, a place where you feel at peace and are reminded of how important it is to slow down and not race through this life. A daily ritual of mindful breathing also has the power to heal your body on a physical level .
"Mindful breathing is the vehicle that you use to go back to your true home." - Thich Nhat Hanh
Breathing also works wonders on the skin. There is good reason to why those chic oxygen bars are rapidly popping up all over cities worldwide.
The practice of mindful breathing is at the root of all Zen philosophy, it is the key to a more healthier, balanced and peaceful existence. Monks and ancient yogis have harnessed its benefits for thousands of years – it is time you bring the power of mindful breathing into your own life.
Today is a good day to slow down and spend some quality time focusing on your breath. It’s about stopping, breathing and enjoying each moment of this life, for they’re too fleeting and few to waste.
We live in a society that is predominately oxygen starved. Our busy schedules, never-ending pressures and overall fast pace of life causes many of us not to breathe properly. A big percent of the population in the western world breathe too shallow and fast. This means that we are not taking in sufficient levels of oxygen, the result of an oxygen starved body is toxic build up which eventually leads to disease.
Are you breathing properly? Well let's take a look a little closer shall we to determine whether you are breathing properly:
- Either lie flat on your back, stand up tall, or sit up straight in a chair.
- Place your hand just below your ribs, on your stomach.
- Now breathe as you normally do.
- Take note of what is happening to your body as you breathe. Does your stomach rise? Or does your upper chest rise? (You may even feel your shoulders rise slightly.)
- If your abdomen rises and your chest stays relatively flat, you are breathing properly.
- If your stomach barely moves and your chest rises, then your breath work needs some improving
Learning to Breathe Properly
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. (Although you can do this exercise while sitting or standing, it’s easiest to practice by lying down at first.)
- Place your hands on your stomach.
- Breathe in through your nose, slowly counting to four. Visualise a balloon in your belly, imagine that you’re inflating the balloon with the air that you are inhaling. Your hands should rise as your abdomen fills with air.
- Hold the breath for a few seconds.
- Exhale slowly through your nose counting to four. Picture letting the air out of your belly balloon. Your hands should go down as your abdomen deflates.
Practice this exercise for a minimum of five minutes at a time, for at least two or three times a day. Eventually, with practice and patience, you will train your body into how to breathe correctly.
If you are a mouth breather, at first you may find that you are gasping for air with your mouth. However, with practice your body will fall back into its correct natural breathing rhythm.
Why mindful breathing it is good for you:
- Heals disease and keeps your body strong: Breathing nourishes your body and organs with oxygen, this helps repair cell damage and builds a stronger body. The oxygen also works at purifying your body, which helps promote vitality and rejuvenation- bottom line is that it gives your body the strength to heal disease, illness and environmental damage.
- Reduces stress and tension: Shallow breathing is linked to stress and anxiety. If you feel stressed out, anxious or overwhelmed, then spend a few moments in mindful breath. It fills your body with oxygen, releases tension, and normalises your heartbeat, creating a feeling of calm. Mindful breathing can be a complementary holistic medicine to anxiety, depression or panic disorders.
- Energises you: When we take deep breaths, more air is drawn into our lungs which drastically increases oxygenation of the blood, resulting in an enhanced metabolism and greater energy. With increased oxygen supply, all your organs are nourished and revitalised, making you feel more energised.
- Great for the skin: When we don't get enough oxygen, our circulation decreases and our skin suffers. Deep breathing improves blood flow, which nourishes and detoxifies skin which leaves you glowing. With more nourishment the skin cells also produce more collagen, slowing down the physical ageing process
- .Brings you to the present moment: If you are future tripping or dwelling on things in the past, breathe, it will bring you back to the present.
- Acts as a gentle reminder for how precious life is: If you are discouraged and have forgotten your purpose in life, breathe, for it will remind you about how precious life truly is. Breathing will quieten your mind so that you can then shift your focus and feel the energy (life-force, chi) within your body.
- Brings clarity: If you are drowning in overwhelm because you have too many tasks to do, breathe, it will nourish and energise your brain which will help bring you into focus.
- Puts you in connection with your inner wisdom: The noise of the outside world often drowns out the gentle sound of your own inner guidance. It will allow you to be present with yourself, with no distractions or ego to block your inner voice. Let yourself just be, feel and experience – you will be amazed at what you discover.
Ways to incorporate in your life:
- Start your morning with some mindful breathing: Not only will this increase your energy levels for the day ahead, but it will nourish your cells, relax your mind and reconnect you with your inner guidance. Sit or lay comfortably on your bed or on the floor. Now breathe in through your nose. As you inhale imagine the breath flowing down your body, renewing, nourishing and energising all your cells. Really focus on your breath as it floats down your body. Now exhale through your nose, imagine all the negativity, tiredness, illness and toxins leaving your body. Repeat this cycle for five minutes.
- A nightly mind cleanse: You should never go to bed with stresses and worries, your body needs as much energy and purity it can get to repair your body while you sleep. Get in the habit of ending your day by sitting still for ten minutes. As you breathe, quieten your mind and feel your worries shrink as the space in your mind slowly expands.
- Take a breather every couple of hours: Simply take a couple minutes between tasks, after meetings, during stressful moments to just stop and breathe. If you can manage to steal a few minutes to walk outside that is even better. Just simply stop what you were doing and just be still for a couple minutes, focusing on the breath going in and out. When you get home, pause and breathe. When you’re done with a task on the computer, close everything and breathe, before starting on the next task. This creates space between tasks which in turn increases productivity and focus.
- Heal your body through breath: One of the ways I keep my body healthy is by practicing a mindful breathing meditation that visualises my own breath healing my body. On the inhale I visualise the oxygen flowing down my body and nourishing all my cells and organs. On the exhale I visualise disease, inflammation and toxins being pulled out of my body. I love this simple meditation. Scientific studies show that the mind/body connection has an extraordinary power to heal – and deep breathing plays a big part of the process . If you are wanting to know more about the mind/body healing theory then I recommend you get Deepak Chopra’s book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, it goes beyond ancient mind/body wisdom and current anti-aging research to show you how you can keep a youthful and healthy body. Read more about the book here.
Over time you can take your breathing practice to a deeper level, and with that it also brings deeper benefits. There are various different breathing techniques that work wonders on the mind, body and soul. To learn more read 4 Pranayama Techniques Worth Practicing
Most importantly - always remember to "Just Breathe, Just Be + Just Experience The Here And Now".