Did you know breathing is the only function of the body that is both involuntary (controlled by the autonomic nervous system) and voluntary (controlled by the voluntary nervous system). Because of this unique combination, controlling your breathe is the key to controlling the automatic nervous system and therefore controlling the mind.
Because breathing is something we often do involuntary we tend to take it for granted and do not really understand the power of our breath. If there is one technique you should learn, it is how to control your breath because the pace of your breathing is closely linked to your state of mind. By learning different voluntary breathing techniques you can learn to control your state of mind.
SIMPLE, NATURAL BREATHING
Let’s start with simple, natural breathing. The average person uses chest muscles rather than the diaphragm when breathing, a style of breathing that is usually shallow, rapid, irregular, and unsteady. For many, chest breathing is the natural and involuntary way of breathing. Unfortunately, chest breathing triggers the mind’s fight or flight system, which warns the mind that there must be an external stressor or nearby danger. Overall, our natural disposition for chest breathing unsteadies our mind and stresses our body. We can learn to naturally breath more effectively by practicing simple, natural breathing.
LEARNING SIMPLE, NATURAL BREATHING
Have you ever watched a newborn baby breathe? Did you notice the baby’s belly rise and fall as he or she breathed? That’s how we are supposed to breathe. While you are inhaling, the navel point should extend out to receive the breath and, while you are exhaling, the navel point should move in and up to release the breath. This activates the diaphragm, which allows for slightly deeper breathing. Now that you have learned a better way to breathe, take a moment and notice your current breathing pattern and make adjustments if necessary.
Another important technique for breathing more fully is to control your breathing rate. Normally, men breathe at a rate of 16 to 18 cycles per minute and women breathe at 18 to 20 cycles per minute; both are the recommended rates for breathing. If you want to measure your breathing rate make sure to start measuring at rest, not after walking or making other movements.
PRACTICE AT HOME
Bring consciousness to your breathing. Each day set aside 3 minutes during the morning, noon, and evening to engage in simple belly breathing. Close your eyes, place your hand on your belly, and bring awareness to your breath. Inhale and allow the belly to fill, then exhale by pushing the belly in and up to release the air.
LONG AND DEEP BREATHING
Now let’s talk about long and deep breathing. Long and deep breathing uses the full capacity of your lungs which produces many benefits. Breathing deeply, or fully using the diaphragm, pours fresh oxygen into the bloodstream which promotes the circulation of prana (life force) throughout the body. When your body is flooded with oxygen, it creates a heightened sense of awareness and profoundly increases your wellbeing. This is why many people refer to the diaphragm as the second heart. With these following long and deep breathing techniques, you can reset your brain, calm yourself in stressful situations, control your negativity, balance your emotions, and connect the mind, body, and spirit.
LEARNING LONG DEEP BREATHING
Proper long and deep breathing is composed of three conscious actions. First you inhale and guide your breath to the lowest part of your abdominal area. Next, you allow air to fill into the chest area. Finally, you lift the upper ribs and clavicle as the breath fills that upper most part of your lungs. When exhaling the reverse happens, first the upper part of your lung deflates, then the middle, and finally you push in the belly to release any remaining breath.
PRACTICE AT HOME
Set aside 10 minutes to practice long and deep breathing. Lie down on your back, place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly, and then allow your body to relax. Begin inhaling, allowing the belly to fill first, then the chest area, and finish with the rising of the clavicular region. As you begin to exhale relax the clavicle, then slowly empty the chest, and finally pull in the belly to release the remaining air. Repeat a few times until it begins to feel more natural.
Set aside 10 minutes each day to practice long and deep breathing. Practicing the above breathing techniques will calm your mind and bring awareness to the rest of your body.
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