“Just breathe.” A favorite saying of enlightened masters, jungle shamans, and loving moms tending to their kids “boo-boos” all around the world. You’ve probably heard this advice before, and perhaps you’ve even given it, but what is so special about the breath? Well, for starters it is the first thing we do when we are born, and the last thing we do before we die. Have you ever thought about that?
Kind of a big deal
It is also one of the only automatic functions of the physical body that can be controlled consciously. For example, you can’t control the way your liver makes bile, or the way your stomach digests food, these are automatic processes. You can however control the way you breathe. The good news is that even if you don’t think about it, your body will keep you breathing, which is kind of important if you ask me!
Fun facts aside, what’s so powerful about “just breathing?” It turns out that the breath is intimately connected with our mind and our emotions. Meditators have known this for thousands of years, and scientists have been discovering the very same thing over the last few decades. As technology has allowed for a greater understanding of the brain, it has been discovered that different states of mind relate to different brain wave patterns.
To make it really simple, think about it like this: The brain functions differently when we are sleeping, or laughing, or studying, or stressed, or blissed out, etc. It just so happens that one of the greatest ways to control these brain wave patterns is with the breath. So, what does that mean for you and me? Simple. If you want to be in control of your mind, your emotions, your life . . .learn to control your breath.
Turns out, it’s easier than you may realize. Take a moment and think about what happens to your breathing when you are scared or anxious? It usually stops for a moment, and becomes very shallow. What about when angry or upset? It often becomes quite rapid. On the flip side, how do you breathe when you are relaxed and at peace? Usually deep, and slow. If you have ever seen a baby sleeping, you will notice they breathe slowly and deeply, their belly rising and falling in a gentle rhythm. They know what’s up.
The good news is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of deep, slow breathing to make a shift. In fact, in less than one minute, you can use your breath to shift into a state of calm relaxation, no matter what is going on around you. The better news?
I am going to teach you how
I call this technique “The Breath of Change” because of how powerfully it can change the way you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. Even though it is a simple technique, it is powerful. Once you know how to do it, you can use it anywhere at any time. When first starting out, I don’t recommend you use this technique while driving, as it can put you into a pretty mellow space. Once you are used to it though, you can use it whenever and wherever you need.
The Breath of Change:
Take a slow, deep inhale through your Nose. See if you can breath all the way down into your belly and feel your abdomen gently expand as you breathe in. You don’t have to stuff yourself with air, just breathe in comfortably. This is not about how much air you can take in.
Slowly exhale through pursed lips, as if you were gently blowing out a candle or trying to spin a pinwheel. The key here is to go slowly. Again, find a rhythm that is comfortable for you, but ideally your exhale should be longer than your inhale.
Repeat for up to a minute, or longer if you need. Often one minute is usually more than enough time to create a shift, but if you are feeling particularly stressed or anxious, you can use this breath for longer.
If it helps, you can count your inhale and exhale. You so, if you breath in to a count of 5, you should try and breath out to a count of 8-10. That way your exhale will be longer than your inhale, which is key.
If counting doesn’t feel right for you, don’t use it. The important part is that you breathe in a comfortable rhythm for you, and make sure that your exhale is longer than your inhale.
That’s it. Simple, but powerful. Don’t just take my word for it, give it a try. Check in with how you feel before you begin the technique, and then again after you finish. You may be amazed at the shift that happens. This technique is also a great way to start the day, and to end the day before bed. If you combine it with last months blog about Mindfulness, you be well on your way to creating a powerful daily practice, and life of greater peace and wellness. If ever you have any questions about these techniques, or how to integrate them more fully into your daily life, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Until next time, just breathe!
Adam is an author, transformational speaker, and stress management coach. His powerful yet approachable and easy-to-understand wisdom have the potential to make a powerful shift in your life. Combining ancient wisdom and modern science, he helps his clients achieve their personal and professional goals, free from stress and worry.