We breathe, in and out, all the time … but how aware are we of the quality of our breath and the effect that it has on the quality of our life?
We are not always conscious of our breathing, but whether we are aware of it or not, the way we breathe has a profound effect on us and how we feel.
If we are feeling anxious, our breath tends to become shallow and fast. If we are scared, we tend to hold our breath. If we feel sad, our breath can become sighing and forced. Breathing in these ways can actually reinforce how we feel and keep us stuck in an emotion or an old pattern of behaviour, and consciously changing the way we breathe can shift our moods and old ways.
We always have a choice
We have a choice as to how we breathe and therefore how we feel. Taking a few moments at the start of each day to choose the quality of our breath, and to breathe with gentle and loving awareness, can connect us more deeply with ourselves and set us up for a day in which we consciously choose the quality of how we are, rather than being at the mercy of life and what comes at us.
And if we find ourselves in a situation where we feel a little out of control, or emotional, or just plain tired, taking a moment to stop and breathe gently, is a great way to bring ourselves back, to reconnect with ourselves, to regain mastery of our bodies and our lives.
We don’t have to stop, for breathing to be a meditation
There are many breathing meditations on offer, but breathing is something we do all the time, and bringing awareness to our breathing in a healing way need not take hours of our time, special positions, soft music, particular clothes, or anything like that. We can even bring awareness to our breath with our eyes open, which is a bonus if we are driving or working!
Breathing gently through our nose, rather than our mouth, offers us a way to determine the quality of our breathing, and therefore our thoughts and our feelings. To begin with, taking a moment to be still and sit with our eyes closed can help us to focus on the breath, without distractions.
As we breathe gently with our eyes closed, we can begin to feel the air entering like a cool breeze at the tip of the nose, and as we breathe out, we can feel the air leaving, lower down the nose and warmed by the warmth of us.
This quality is how we know the breath is gentle and we can continue to deepen the quality of gentleness with each breath, allowing each breath to be more gentle than the last one. This focus on the breath gives our mind something to do, and brings the mind into line with what our bodies are doing.
Once we establish this gentle quality of breathing, we start to notice our whole body becoming more gentle in its movements … the rise and fall of our chest, as the breath moves in and out of our nose.
This simple act of conscious presence – bringing our mind into line with what our body is doing – is a great tool for those of us with very busy minds, and a way to help us come back to ourselves and focus on what we are actually doing, if our thoughts are feeling a little out of control.
Once we have developed a rhythm of breathing in this way, of breathing gently and feeling our body move gently with the breath, we can take this quality of gentleness into our daily lives, and choose to breathe our own breath, rather than letting life breathe us.
We tend to react to situations and let life affect us, reacting angrily or with other emotions if someone is angry with us, or to something we see on TV, or something we witness at work. That situation has then affected our breathing and we are no longer breathing our own breath. If we stay centred, within ourselves, and continue to breathe our own breath, we are not so affected by such situations in life, and more able to truly respond to them rather than react.
Living and breathing in this gentle way restores our connection with ourselves and our power over our own bodies and our own lives, and we are more able to hold ourselves in a loving and caring way, and to bring ourselves back if we stray, no matter what may come at us throughout the day.
This article was first published on To Medicine with Love