“The True Man breathes with his heels; the mass of men breathe with their throats”
Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu
Hello sweet friend, please know the breath is your private inner medicine. In fact, the breath could easily be the most potent inner medicine you have. She is your humble healing servant, ready and waiting for your every request.
Ask her and she will respond. In an instant she can slow and deepen. Create more space for your organs. Move energy more efficiently through you. Encourage tension to dissolve. Shift heavy emotions. Slow a busy mind. Detox your body.
Following are some interesting facts about the breath drawn from all the tai chi, yoga, huna, qi gong, pranayama and other energy classes I have taken over the past 20 years.
Stuff to know about your breathing:
- Your breath is the first thing to respond in your body: Your breath will respond and adjust according to what you are thinking, feeling, observing, hearing, tasting, touching, sensing or experiencing at the time. It is intimately connected to your physical, emotional and spiritual state.
- Check the depth of your inhales: Notice where the end of your inhales stop and rest. Are they habitually limited? Do they finish in the throat, upper chest or flow a little deeper into the ribs or even deeper into your belly. A full nourishing inhale should fill your lungs, expand your ribs and open your abdomen. Shoulder tension and muscular tightness around the ribs often limits your breath. Encourage a slightly longer exhale to invite a deeper inhale.
- Move on and let it go with a releasing exhale: A longer exhale in times of stress can help to put a healthy distance between you and the outside world. Create some breathing space if you like. Your exhales when used as medicine can help move any stresses out and away from your energy fields. Pause often and let go of the stress with a cleansing sigh and releasing exhale.
- 70% of waste is eliminated through your lungs: It wasn’t until I started reading The Tao of Natural Breathing by Dennis Lewis that I learnt up to 70% of our body’s waste products are eliminated via our lungs and the rest through the urine, skin and faeces. When the efficiency of our lungs is reduced due to poor breathing less oxygen is available to our cells, it slows down the flow of blood which carries wastes from the kidneys and lungs. Our lymphatic system which fights off viral and bacterial invaders is weakened along with a slower digestive process.
- Your breathing habits influence the flow of your day: Jerky, shallow, fast, constricted or tight breathing reflects that your days are in a constant stressed state. You tend to overreact to that which is happening around you and waste your precious energy unnecessarily. Your days are rushed. You have forgotten how to pause and receive.
- Quality breathing can release fear, anger and sadness: Your breath will become disturbed when experiencing stressful emotions. To prevent these unwanted emotions from being pushed down and trapped in your body, simply breathe into your organs. When I studied Qi Gong we were taught to breathe into our organs. This, I must say was a life changing moment for me. I received enormous benefits almost immediately. Breathe into your lungs to move sadness and grief. Breathe into your kidneys to move fear. Breathe into your liver to move anger. Breathe into your heart to open yourself up to more loving experiences.
- Your nose is for breathing and the mouth for eating: Whether I’m doing yoga, tai chi or qi gong all my teachers have recommended to breathe in and out through the nose. Nose breathing corrects the balance of oxygen and dioxide in our blood.
- Your breath activates your nervous system: When the sympathetic nervous system is activated you are living life with the “accelerator” on full throttle. You are in “fight or flight” mode and constantly releasing stress hormones into your body. On the flip side, the parasympathetic nervous system is like putting the “brake on” to life. To activate your parasympathetic nervous system focus on your breath. Close your eyes and allow your breath to slow, deepen and widen.
- Notice the pause after each exhale: There is a very natural pause after each of your exhales. Don’t rush into your next inhale, simply slow the breath, connect to the pause and receive the healing stillness.
- Your body can’t relax if your mind and breath are racing: Your thoughts are directly linked to the quality of your breathing. Busy, overactive thinking often means short, shallow and quick breathes. When you slow your thoughts the body will soon follow.
- A conscious exhale removes toxins from your body: Spending longer on your exhale through your nose will remove old, stuck or stagnant carbon dioxide from the very bottom of your lungs, along with toxic bi-products the body has produced.
- Experience a yogic breath: Anyone who practices yoga with be familiar with the 3 main stages of yogic breathing. Lying comfortably on your back or sitting up in a chair inhale. Firstly notice your collar bones and upper part of your chest expand, then follow the inhale down by placing a hand on either side of your ribs and feel them expand outwards away from the spine. Lastly place your hands gently on your belly/abdomen area and notice the rise and fall of your tummy
- Squeezing the tummy in on the inhale limits the breath: Reverse breathing (sucking the tummy in on the inhale) is common. Place your hands on your belly and feel the belly swell and expand like a balloon on the inhale. When we reverse breath with limit the breath, limit our oxygen intake and deprive ourselves of vital prana energy. Many ancient traditions such as Taoism believe we accumulate and store energy in our belly area.
- Breathing is not just for your lungs its for your whole body: You can consciously choose to direct the flow of your breath into absolutely any part of your body, for whatever purpose. You might like to listen to one of my guided breathing rituals here.
You might also like to read one of my favourite books The Breathing Bookby Donna Fahri
May the medicine in you rise my friend. xox Carole
~ Stay connected ~