We all breathe, approximately 12-20 times per minute if you’re counting, which adds up to 17,000-30,000 breaths per day! But how many of us breathe with awareness of what’s happening in the body, mind and spirit for any of those 30,000 breaths?
On a physical level, when you breathe your diaphragm and lungs are working to bring oxygen into the blood stream and push carbon dioxide out.
Most of us tend to take shallow, short breaths which triggers our “fight or flight” response in the body, and heightens the levels of stress and anxiety we feel in our lives. Deep, deliberate, conscious breathing does the opposite — it engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes the body and calms the mind. It also increases oxygen saturation in our cells which helps the body not only relax but also rejuvenate itself.
I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am. ~Sylvia Plath
Breath to find your true Self
The breath is the focal point in many Buddhist meditation techniques. Anapana sati, the meditation on breathing in and out, was stressed by Buddha as the “gateway to enlightenment”. It was through meditation on the breath that Buddha achieved his own enlightenment.
This focus on the breath can help reveal a greater connection to your true Self. When the breath slows down, the mind also follows. As the body relaxes and the mind quiets you free yourself of the mental noise that pervades our thoughts — the distractions, stressors, to-do lists and self-doubt — to enable you to see what is not your true Self.
Are you truly your mind, your body, your thoughts, feelings, your job? It is often those things we identify with that prevent us from connecting with our own inner light, our true Self, our spirit.
Activations can help you.
Certain energetic activations can also help initiate and even speed up this process.
By working with a trained practitioner to activate certain points in the energy body, you can start to reveal your true Self that lies beneath the cluttered layers of the mind, and start to realize your true life purpose.
Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God. ~Krishnamacharya
Try this at home
Pranayama are yogic breathing exercises that mean the extension of the breath or “life force”.
In the yoga tradition, breath work is a means of attaining higher states of awareness. Below is a pranayama technique you can start using to feel benefits right away.
Start in a comfortable seated position. Your posture should be upright. Ensure that there will be no distractions while you practise. Spend the first few minutes observing your breath. Without changing anything just observe the natural pattern of your inhale & exhale, taking note of any patterns that arise.
Start with a balanced four count, square breath:
- inhale to a count of 4
- exhale to a count of 4
Repeat until the breath comes to a place of balance.
Gradually work towards extending the exhale twice as long as the inhale. Begin by inhaling to a count of 4 & exhaling to a count of 6 so the breathing pattern becomes:
- Inhale to a count of 4
- Exhale to a count of 6
Repeat until the breath settles into this pattern.
Once you are comfortable with this, gradually work towards inhaling to a count of 4 & exhaling to a count of 8 so the breathing pattern becomes:
- Inhale to a count of 4
- Exhale to a count of 8
Repeat for as long as comfortable. Entire breathing exercise should last for approximately 10-15 minutes.
The goal is for the inhale and exhale to be in a 1:2 ratio to each other. The longer the exhale the more the entire nervous system of the body relaxes. If at any point the breath becomes forced or strained, return to a count where the breathe moves freely and comfortably.