"He lives most life whoever breathes most air."-Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Breathing affects many systems in your body- not just the respiratory system but also the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological, and muscular systems. The lymphatic system, which is a part of the cardiovascular system, requires the breath and the movement of other muscles and joints to assist in lymphatic flow through out the body, as it has no pumping system of its own.
If you've ever watched a newborn breathe, you'll notice that they take deep belly breaths. This is our natural way of breathing. As we get older, we tend to hold our breath when we get upset or stressed out or breath shallow breaths that stem from our chests. This distorted way of breathing and our daily stresses can lead to anxiety and lack of energy, making us feel sluggish and burnt out on life or work.
But there's good news! We can cultivate a breathing practice to help us calm and recenter ourselves when we notice that our breath has become shallow, or we are experiencing uncomfortable tension. It sounds silly to create a breathing practice because this is an automatic function that our living bodies do, but if you take some time to check in with your personal breathing patterns, you may notice shallowness or tightness while you breathe.
Start checking in randomly and briefly- without altering it in any way. Ask yourself a few questions.
1. What does my breathing pattern feel like today?
Is it smooth? Does it feel labored? Just notice for a second and move on.
2. Where is my breath coming from?
Is it coming from the chest or the belly? Take note. See if you can bring your attention to your nostrils and feel the air enter and escape. Do your shoulders move? Do your ribs expand?
After you've become acquainted to your breathing with out altering it, take a few minuets and try this exercise.
1. Lay on the floor with your feet planted in to the earth. You can use a blanket or yoga mat, and make yourself comfortable. Your knees are at a 90 degree angle and your lower back is flattened and supported by the floor. Bring your chin down to a neutral position and allow your jaw to relax.
2. Breathe deeply in and out for half a minute and briefly check in with your current breathing pattern. Ask your self the questions above.
3. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Without changing your breathing, notice which hand rises and falls with the breath.
4. Now change your breathing to only breathe in to the hand on your chest. Bring your awareness to how this feels and notice any thing of interest to you.
5. Switch your focus to the hand on your belly and begin breathing in to that hand and focusing all the breath there. Be aware and notice any sensations.
6. Now breathe in a wave like fashion. Start by breathing in to the hand one the chest and then filling the belly with air, allowing the hand on the belly to also rise. Allow the breath to exhale from the chest and then the belly.
Do this a few times and notice how you feel after the exercise.
I hope to add a yoga nidra class soon to my teaching schedule. Yoga nidra is a beautiful meditational practice that incorporates gentle yoga, breathing, and visualization exercises. Look for announcements hopefully sometime in the new year!
If you tried this exercise, leave me a comment below and tell me the outcome!
I love to hear your experiences and thoughts!
Gaia Bodywork PLLC is the private massage practice of Hillary Arrieta LMT040051 and is located in Richardson, TX. Hillary offers the best massage services in the area for pain and stress management. Visit Gaiabodywork.com for more information.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kukhahnyoga/4468074287/">Kukhahn Yoga</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">cc</a>