“The True Man breathes with his heels; the mass of men breathe with their throats” By Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu
I’ve got some awesome news for you. Your breath is a potent healing and rejuvenation tool that responds in an instant to your personal command.
You can easily, and I mean easily, invite more pockets of relaxation into your day simply by checking in with the flow of your breath. Too easy.
The following 15 tips are drawn from all the tai chi, yoga, huna, qi gong and other energy classes I have taken over the past 20 years.
In addition there are a couple of great books I’ve been thoroughly absorbing myself in over the past month:
Breathing: The Master Key to Self Healing by Dr. Andrew Weil
The Tao of Natural Breathing by Dennis Lewis
Free Your Breath, Free Your Life by Dennis Lewis
15 clever things 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 inhale: Does your normal inhale only reach the middle or upper area of your chest? Or is your normal inhale even shorter stopping around your shoulder, neck and throat area? This is a great place to start developing a greater understanding of your breath by focusing on the depth of your inhale. A full inhale should fill your lungs and expand your abdomen. Place your hands onto either side of your lower ribs … feel them expand with each inhale. Then place your hands onto your belly and feel it rise and fall with each breath.
- Let it go and move on with a releasing exhale: An extended exhale in times of stress pushes any drama, confusion and upset away from you. Short, quick, shallow breathes will bring any stress and drama closer to you. By slowing and deepening your breath, you create a healthy distance between you and whatever is going on around you. A deep releasing exhale will support you letting it go and moving on. Yeah!
- 70% of waste is eliminated through your lungs: I thought I knew quite allot about the basics of the human body. It wasn’t until I started reading the Tao Of Breathing by Dennis Lewis that I discovered something I did not know. 70% of our body’s waste products are eliminated via our lungs and the rest through the urine, skin and feces. 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 you live your days in a constant stressed out – push and pull state. You tend to overreact to that which is happening around you and waste your precious energy unnecessarily. Your days are rushed, and time is always an issue. You have forgotten how to relax, be still and receive. Reverse your breathing habits to experience a different flow to your day.
- 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 remove sadness and grief. Breathe into your kidneys to dissolve fear. Breathe into your liver to dissolve anger. Breathe into your heart to open yourself up to more loving experiences. Breathe in gently and deeply (never forced) to invite healthy energy into your organs, now consciously feel the stressful emotion flow out of your body with each exhale.
- 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 my nose. After spending the past few months researching breath in greater depth I have not come across anyone suggesting otherwise. One important reason which many experts share is that 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 all the time. You are in “fight or flight” mode and constantly releasing stress into your body. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system is like putting the “brake on” to life. It helps slow your body down which in turn allows restoration and rejuvenation. The key to activating your parasympathetic nervous system is to place your full attention onto your breath. Close your eyes and allow your breath to slow down relax and become gentle. Let your whole body absorb your now gentle breath. Another great way to activate your parasympathetic nervous system is to practice a little restorative yoga for as little as 5 minutes with childs pose or legs up the wall.
- Experience the pause after your exhale: Take time to marinate with your breath. Don’t force anything or rush straight into your next breath. Notice the very natural stillness and slight pause after each exhale. Infuse gentleness into your breathing. Marinate for a moment with its nourishing flow. Don’t push your next breath into the future, particularly if you haven’t even got there yourself. Become present, live in the now and experience the pause after your next exhale. There is a pocket of peace to be found in that pause.
- 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. By focusing on calming your mind you will automatically be calming your breath and in turn relaxing your body. Meditation is an awesome way to calm your mind. Another option is to turn your back to the world for a few minutes. This very simple yoga pose that forces your mind to surrender. Your breath and thoughts have no choice, but to slow down.
- 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. In addition, a deep sign (strong exhale) is often a release of worries and heavy thoughts. A good exhale can help you let it go emotionally and physically.
- 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. Lastly place your hands gently on your belly/abdomen area and notice the rise and fall of your tummy
- Pulling your stomach in reduces your oxygen intake: One of the main benefits of breathing of course is to invite loads of oxygen into your body. Restricting your oxygen intake comprises the health of your body. To invite oxygen deep into your abdomen, diaphragm area keep your belly soft, relaxed and open. Touch and massage it frequently as your belly is the very centre of your breath. Many ancient traditions such as Taoism believe we can accumulate and store energy in our belly area. It is often known as our seat of power.
- 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. Improve energy flow, dissolve tension, release a build up of pressure in your head area, ground you, energerzie you, de-stress you or to simply send smiles into all your organs. I ‘m prone to being vague and spacey. To ground myself I often imagine my breathe flowing down into my legs, feet, toes and then into the ground. It helps me come back into my body.
- Shallow breathing causes memory loss: The Taoists believe that loss of oxygen though shallow breathing ie. your inhale only goes as deep as your throat or top of your lungs, is the primary cause of memory loss in the elderly. Not sure how true this is, and I can’t even remember where I read it but, nevertheless I included it anyway as it certainly got me thinking. Worth exploring.
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