Calming Your Heart and Soul
"Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor." ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh
"There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted. Then, there’s another way: a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity." ~Rumi
"Focusing on the act of breathing clears the mind of all daily distractions and clears our energy enabling us to better connect with the Spirit within." ~Author Unknown
“Blessed are they who are intimate with their Breath, for they shall receive the ‘I Can’ of the Universe.” ~The Beatitudes (as translated directly from the Bible in the original Aramaic)
“Breathing is the FIRST place not the LAST place one should investigate when any disordered energy presents itself.” ~ Sheldon Saul Hendler, MD Ph.D.
“The practice is simply this: keep coming back to your breath during the day. Just take a moment. This will give your mind a steadiness and your breath a gracefulness…. There’s so much to let go of, isn’t there? Your nostalgia and your regrets. Your fantasies and your fears. What you think you want instead of what is happening right now.” ~ Rodney Yee
There are so many great quotes on the breath, I couldn't stop at just one! The one thing that both the ancients and modern science agree on is the importance and benefits of breathing well.
Now that Spring is officially here, chances are good you'll be spending more time outdoors breathing in that refreshing crisp cool air. Which is a perfect time to begin to delve into a simple breath awareness practice.
If your breath feels tight or restricted, if you get headaches, neck or shoulder pain, if you feel anxious for no particular reason, this practice is very beneficial and safe.
Of course, you can practise breath awareness anywhere. Here, I'm talking about breath awareness as opposed to breath control (pranayama - for example, alternate nostril breathing, which you can find here). Breath awareness and pranayama are both powerful tools for calming and changing the nervous system.
Breath awareness is simply that - noticing your breath without trying to change it. It's really great for relieving stress, and you can also use it to anchor the mind's attention while meditating. For more on the benefits of meditation, go here.
To practise breath awareness, you can stand, sit, or lie down. And be prepared - it can be challenging at first NOT to change the breath as you become aware of it. So this is a practice, not a perfection. Your goal is simply to observe, watch and be aware. Each new breath is a new opportunity to practise simple awareness.
There are several ways to practise.
Notice Your Body Breathing
Bring your awareness to your body breathing. Without trying to change your breath, simply notice your belly, your ribs, your chest rise and fall with the inhale. If you're on your back, feel which parts of your body press into the floor as you inhale and exhale.
Notice the Sound of Your Breath
Notice the sound of your breath as you breathe in and out, particularly at the back of the throat. Can you hear it anywhere else in the body?
Notice the Feel of the Breath
Bring your awareness to the tip of your nose, and notice the feeling as the breath flows in through the nostrils, past the roof of the mouth, and down the back of the throat. Notice the slight change in temperature as the breath flows out past the throat, and through the nostrils. Does your breath feel relaxed or forced? Is the inhale longer or shorter than the exhale?
For a brilliant practice to help you find your breath and increase vitality, check out Your Yoga Tip.
If you want to trigger deep relaxation with all of its benefits, practise for 15 to 20 minutes. For the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, practise breath awareness for just a few breaths any time you remember.
And now, I'd love to hear from you. Did you find this practice calming and relaxing? There's no right or wrong answer. Post your comment below and I will respond!
Donna offers a holistic perspective on the relationship and healing of physical and emotional pain.