Breathe...just breathe. You do it approximately 20,000 times a day! And every breath you take is your opportunity to fully experience your present moment.
Mindfulness is a pathway to more joy, less stress and a greater sense of fulfillment in your life. It’s hard to believe that something as simple as paying attention to your present moment experience can be so transformational, but it’s true.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness including meditation, mindful movement (yoga, qi cong, tai chi), mindful eating, body scan, walking meditation. Breath awareness is one of the core mindfulness practices.
I’m always grateful for my breath…and in awe of the simple yet complex process of inhaling oxygen into my lungs and exhaling carbon dioxide to energize every single cell of my body…more than 20,000 times a day. Breath is life. Every single cell in our body requires the oxygen we breathe to function properly. The ability to think, feel, move, eat, sleep and even talk all depend on energy generated from oxygen.
Breath connects us directly to the environment and to all other beings. We all breathe the same air!
Breath is powerful. Did you know that breathing is the only physiological process that we can control...or not control? We can just let it be, let the body breathe on its own. Or we can consciously change it and use it to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, to feel immediately more calm, peaceful and grounded.
Breath is at the heart of every yoga, meditation and mindfulness practice. We move to the rhythm of our breath as we move through our yoga poses. We focus on our breath during meditation, and at any moment in life it's an ever-present anchor we can use to stay present and grounded.
Here are some tips to connect with your breath and a guided meditation to introduce you to Breath Awareness.
GET TO KNOW YOUR BREATH
Commit to getting to know your breath this week. Set yourself a daily appointment 5 days in a row - any time, but the same time each day. When your gentle alarm reminds you of your appointment with yourself, take 2-3 minutes to close your eyes and connect with your breath. How does it feel today? Does it feel smooth or rough? Notice the length of your inhale and exhale. Notice the pauses. Focus on your breath as it flows in and out of your nostrils or focusing on the movement of the belly as it expands and contracts when you inhale and exhale. Notice all the sensations.
CONNECT WITH YOUR BREATH IN CHILD'S POSE
Set yourself up in a comfortable Child’s Pose. You may wish to use blocks or your stacked fists to support your forehead. As you are here with your body folded in on itself, take this moment to collect yourself, and connect with yourself, let go of your day, let go of your external experience and begin to move towards an internal experience and to build an awareness of your breath.
- Begin to consciously breath into your belly to activate your diaphragmatic breathing, you will be able to experience it by feeling the effect through the pressure of your belly on your knees. The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle just under your lungs that extends downwards as you inhale, creating that sensation of filling your belly with breath
- Bring your attention to your lower back, you may feel some movement there as you breath, noticing that our breathing is connected to other part of our body....our diaphragm muscle is connected to our back.
- See if you can feel your breath in other parts of the body.
- Just follow your breath and notice all the sensations as it flows through your body while you rest here in gentle Child’s Pose
MOVE WITH YOUR BREATH
We can explore with our breath and experience how to connect it to our movement through some simple arm raises.
- Standing in Mountain Pose, face your palms upwards and raise your outstretched arms to the sky right above the shoulders, and back down again in one smooth movement, moving as you breath. Upwards as you inhale, down to your sides as you exhale. Then try the opposite.
- You will feel a lift in the chest as you move your arms in time with your breath.
- Notice how your breath changes and moves through these simple arm raises.
BREATH AWARENESS MEDITATION
This guided meditation will introduce you to breath awareness. Once you know what to do, it's a meditation you can do on your own at any time. Explore each breath, notice the the length of the inhale and the exhale, notice the pauses, notice the textures and all the sensations, all the tiny movements as you receive and release your breath. When your mind wanders, just gently guide it back to your breath. If Breath Awareness is not a new practice for you, I invite you to see it differently today, to really explore the flow and the sensations of your life-giving breath.
GO DEEPER WITH THESE HUM RESOURCES
The Science of Breathing
What exactly is Mindfulness?
Easy Breathing: An Introduction to Pranayama