BREATHING....ARE YOU DOING IT RIGHT?
Seems like a silly questions right? I mean...isn't breathing automatic and don't I already know how to breath? Well, yes, unconsciously we all continue to breathe because of our autonomic nervous system but as we go through life many things change the quality of how we breath. We adapt and change as we go through life and most of the time, we aren't paying attention to the little things that have a huge impact on our health and wellness.
All forms of life are made up of millions of tiny little living cells, and in those cells we have little power houses which are called mitochondria. These are literally the smallest machines known to man. These machines power our bodies and give us energy, called ATP. Our tissues and organs are composed of these cells and they must function properly in order to keep us alive.
So what does this have to do with breathing you ask? Well...
Respiration (breathing) affects our energy supply. Energy is produced through a process of combustion when oxygen combines with a fuel. Thus, the process of respiration occurs within the cell where nutrient fuel is burned with oxygen to release energy (ATP). Our nose, trachea, lungs, circulatory system, and muscles participate in the transport oxygen from the air we breathe to make it readily available to each of our cells.
Ok, so now that you you have a little understanding of why proper breathing is vital, let's take a minute and become present with your body and breath.
What do you notice? Is your breathing ... 1. diaphragmatic or thoracic 2. continuous or interrupted by pauses 3. rhythmical or irregular...
Your breathing is affected by many things. Mental and physical. Think about when you have experienced states of fear, anger, sadness, excitement, physical exertion,etc...How did your breathing change? Think about it, if these states can change our breathing, what would happen if you became more mindful of your breathing and were able to consciously change it? If you are able to do this, you can affect your present physical and emotional state. How cool is that? With daily practice, you can retrain your muscles and automatic responses through breathing exercises. You are in control of your body, you just need to practice being mindful and present.
Here are two different strategies to get you well on your way to optimal breathing and improve your mindfulness.
Step 1: 8 Breath Meditation No matter how busy your life is, no matter where you are, you can find one minute to do this 8 Breath meditation. These 8 breaths bring you to your body, bring you to the present. Begin with the intention to put aside all your preoccupations for the next minute and relax.
You will take 8 deep breaths. 1st exhale: relax your face, forehead, eyes, scalp and jaw. 2nd exhale: relax your neck, shoulders, and arms. 3rd exhale: relax your entire back. 4th exhale: relax your chest and keep your stomach soft. 5th exhale: relax your lower lower body 6th, 7th and 8th exhale: pay attention and feel your entire body.
Step 2: Counting Breaths For some people, counting breaths can be very helpful to help settle the mind and develop concentration. It serves as feedback to let you know that your mind has drifted. This method can be used for the entire meditation session or just for the first part of the sitting, until the mind calms a bit. Silently count each breath, beginning with one and count up to ten. Each count includes an entire cycle of inhalation and exhalation.When you reach ten, you start over. Keep most of your attention on the physical sensations of breathing.If you get distracted, start over again at 'one'. It doesn’t matter how far you get, just start again. You are training the mind, not trying to accomplish getting to 10. The starting over is an essential part of the training. Any time you are starting over at one, you are being mindful.
Give it a try.