Finding Ease in Life Through the Breath
Our breath is our life’s teacher and the greatest healer. The breath’s qualities constantly change according to events in our daily life. When we walk, when we talk, when we sleep or rest, when we exercise, when we get excited or when we feel under stress. As everything in our body is linked, our breath also responds to any emotional, mental or physical change by changing its depth, rate and path. The average respiration rate for an adult is twelve to seventeen breaths per minute. A healthy adult after a good rest and in a very relaxed body might take as few as four to ten breaths per minute and breathe primarily into the lower lungs (belly breathing). A faster breathing rate without any physical activity might be an indicator of high stress levels when the breath is mostly shallow and into the upper body. These types of changes in the depth, rate and path of our breathing also influence many systems in our body on many levels such as physical tension, oxygen intake in the blood, our immune system, the functioning of the brain and internal organs, heart rate, sleeping habits, clarity of the mind, stability of our emotions, our focus, decision making abilities and many more. The good news is the rate and depth of breathing can be modified in a deliberate and intentional way as we learn the principles and techniques of conscious breathing. Increasing awareness of the breath and regular breathing exercises are the simplest antidote to finding vitality and well-being as well as to return the body systems back to their natural or more restful state when needed. Breathing exercises for centering and grounding are the most powerful to enhance our inner resilience and mental flexibility. They often calm our mind and body when we need more empowerment especially around this time of the year. Below is a five minute basic and easy breathing technique, which you can use anytime and anywhere when you need the guidance of your breath in this festive season. This is a great exercise that you can practice at home, at work, on the go or in nature, whenever you need the feeling of being grounded and centered in mind and body. This is also a very beneficial breathing practice when it’s practiced on a regular basis every day to stimulate your Parasympathetic Nervous System, to help you with letting go of mental stressors, to enhance positive thinking and create ease in the physical body.
Grounding & Centering Breath: Set your alarm for five minutes and start by finding your most comfortable pose either in seated or lying down position. If you prefer to sit on the floor, ensure that your back is nice and long throughout the practice for more space in your lungs. Your back may be fully supported by the wall or with some cushions. Adjust your hips higher than your knee levels, so use as many supports as you need under your sit bones. If you prefer to sit on a chair, adjust your legs with a 90-degree angle at knee level, feet flat, parallel and hip distance apart on the floor. You can use cushions under the hips if the chair is low or under the feet if they don’t reach down to earth. Your back is also fully supported when needed to maintain a nice and long spine. If you choose to lay down on the floor, have your feet a little wider apart than your hip level, knees bent and drop them in together for a support. Use a folded blanket or a cushion to support the back of the head and neck down to the top of your shoulders. Ensure that your chin level is lower than your forehead. You can close your eyes or gaze softly down. Relax your body and begin to breath in and out through your nostrils naturally.
Stage 1 (one minute) Observe the pace, depth and path of your breath without changing or analysing anything. Let your thoughts come and go, with no attachment to any of them. Gently welcome your thoughts and come back to your breath each time when you find yourself distracted. This is perfectly normal and with regular practice you will improve the time of holding your attention on your breath.
Stage 2 (one minute) Gently shift your attention to your upper abdomen, your belly. You can rest your palms on your upper abdomen just above your navel and below your breastbone, or simply release and relax them on your lap or thighs without interlocking the fingers. Keep holding your attention on the belly area. Remember, wherever your attention goes, your breath follows. Naturally send the breath to the bottom of your lungs by lengthening your in-breath deeply and exhale fully. Repeat this a few more times. Stage 3 (one minute) With the next inhalation take the breath in deeply down to the belly through the nostrils and send it out fully through the mouth with a “whooosh!” sound. Repeat this a few more times. Remember it is not about the volume of the breath but the pace of the breath. Keep your breathing soft, gentle and steady. Come back to your natural breathing anytime when you feel light-headed and start again as instructed when you feel normal again. Stage 4 (one minute) If you feel comfortable you can keep going on with the stage 3 for another minute breathing in and out through the nose or you can advance your breathing by counting with a 2:3:4 or 4:7:8 ratio through the nose again. Take the breath in down to the belly by counting to 2 or 4, hold it for 3 to 7 and breath out fully by counting to 4 or 8; and repeat it for a few more rounds with full focus on your breath. You can listen to the ticking sound of a clock to count your breaths or use a metronome application on your phone or tablet if you need an aid to count your breath. Stage 5 (one minute) Release the above stages gently and come back to the natural rhythm of your normal breath. Give yourself some time here to observe and to breathe naturally. Then release the practice. Gently open your eyes. Stretch your body, smile and return to your next daily activity! Breathe well, flow well, connect well! With infinite Love and Gratitude! Aslihan, the Crow