As a yoga instructor, I have come to love my breath.
When I was an endurance athlete, I understood the importance of the respiratory system, but I never truly grasped the gift of my breath. But in the last several years of my yoga studies, , I have learned that we often only use one-third to one-fourth of our lung capacity daily.
We aren’t breathing fully and deeply into our every days.
Our breath gives us life–it is the life within us. It says in Genesis chapter two that “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living begin.” (NIV) And when we are born into this world the first thing we do is open our mouths and grasp at the air.
Breath replenishes our systems, aids in our health, and can calm us–literally–in that moment of fight or flight. Breathing helps slow the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, and brings us back to a calm state.
You see, during this seasonal change, and even more so as the holidays approach, I find myself more busy than usual which in turn manifests as stress. But don’t we all? We’re go-go-go, dinner there, dinner there, Christmas program number 1-2-3, have to go shopping, etc, etc, etc.
But this is the season where I need to come back to my breath: to breathe into my full capacity of loving and living; to learn to inhale grace and exhale the things that aren’t priorities.
To learn to breathe in life, deeply and fully.
A Breath Exercise
- Settle into you comfortable, seated position bringing your back straight and gently placing your left hand on your belly and right hand on your chest.
- Begin by taking a few slow, conscious breaths through the nose, inhaling and exhaling deeply with a slight pause in between, simply observing the breath.
- Slowly begin to bring your breath in control. Make the breath a little deeper, longer in both the inhalations and exhalations. Try to expel every little bit of breath on the exhale before you begin another inhale. Keep focusing on the breath, listening and noticing.
- After a few rounds of breath, allow a brief pause at the top of the inhale, as well as after the exhale. Let your body move freely with the breath.
- Allow the belly to expand outward, while the ribs expand to the sides, and visualize the breath rolling up through the lungs, the chest rising at the top of the inhale. As you exhale, the body deflates: the chest dropping and belly coming in.
- After about five minutes of this focused, belly breathing, let go of the conscious control of your breath. Notice how your energy, thoughts, and emotions have changed during this time, the moment peaceful and purposeful. Your breath full.
*If you’d like more of a guided meditation, I published a new Holy Yoga breath practice last week!
¹ Originally published on Cake and Whiskey.