Breathe – It’s Nature’s Free Medicine

Young happy woman enjoying fresh air in autumn, intentionally toned.

It’s something we take completely for granted – our breath; and yet it is one of the most powerful medicines we can utilize for so many benefits.  And, best of all, it’s FREE!  Being conscious of how we breathe can have many health benefits while, on the other hand, not being mindful of our breathing can affect us both physically and emotionally.

Benefits: Breathing benefits all of the organ systems of the body and oxygenates the blood.  It also:
• Improves digestion, respiration and mental focus;
• Can create a sense of relaxation and reduce fatigue and anxiety;
• Promotes an overall feeling of well-being.

Breathing Affects Us both Physically and Emotionally

As a Reiki master, one of the first things I notice once clients get on the table for a session is how they are breathing.  Most of us, myself included, have a shallow breathing pattern for much of the day.  We are living in our head, with the inner voice commentating on each and every move we make. This puts the body into a fight/flight response mode. Without going into detail, this pattern can create much inner stress which manifests in different ways for different people.  It can include headaches, muscle tension, high blood pressure and anxiety.  Just stopping a few times a day to take 3 deep breathes and feeling your shoulders and body relax with each exhale can make a huge difference in how you feel overall.

Being Mindful of Our Breath

There is a big focus on Mindfulness practises in recent years to alleviate the stress level that unhealthy lifestyle patterns are creating.  Mindfulness is just that, bringing ourselves present to the moment, noticing through our senses what we are experiencing.  The old saying “slow down and smell the roses” is a reminder to become more present.  Breathing exercises are one of the quickest and easiest ways to create a physical and neurological change in our body.

Here is a link to a great article from Jack Schwartz which includes an exercise.  Some other great and easy ways to use the power of breathing to bring us more balance and well-being are:

1. Equal Breathing

How it’s done: Balance can do a body good, beginning with the breath. To start, inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four — all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath. With more practise, you can aim for six to eight counts per breath with the same goal in mind: calm the nervous system, increase focus and reduce stress.

2. Alternate Nostril Breathing

How it’s done: A yogi’s best friend, this breath is said to bring calm and balance, and unite the right and left sides of the brain. Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril.

3. Skull Shining Breath

How it’s done: Ready to brighten up your day from the inside out? This one begins with a long, slow inhale, followed by a quick, powerful exhale generated from the lower belly. Once you are comfortable with the contraction, up the pace to one inhale-exhale (all through the nose) every one to two seconds, for a total of 10 breaths.

4. Get out in nature.

For some, the thought of sitting in meditation is not relaxing.  Get outside for some aerobic activity. Whether it’s a walk, bike ride, or any exercise that requires us to increase the need for breath.

Whatever you choose – the power of our breath is far reaching for increased well-being.  Sometimes simple is the best choice, let’s use the power that life itself gives us.  Spring has arrived inviting us outside, no more excuses. Let’s bring more awareness to our breath – there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Do you have breathing practices that you follow to improve your daily health and vitality?  I would love to hear from you.  You can connect with me by email or telephone, or click the contact tab at the bottom of the screen if you are reading this post on the website. Don’t forget to join in the conversation on Facebook too!

To our health and well-being!

Karen

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