From the moment you take your first breath until the moment you take your last, this essential element of life has enormous influence on our mind and body. When observed, our breath can give focus to the mind, slow our heart rate, reduce blood pressure and bring internal quiet and stillness into focus.
Yoga is the home of focused and mindful breathing. In essence it teaches us to breathe in challenging poses, and this learning can be transferred into daily life. Learning to notice and focus on our breathing whenever we feel pressure or self doubt or when we feel our body’s stress response, we can change our physiology by changing the depth, rhythm and pace of our breathing.
On a physical level, research shows diaphragmatic breathing, (when each breath moves the diaphragm through its full range of motion) moves us from the limbic part of our brain, (the primitive, survival and stress response part of our brain) into other parts of our brain not associated with the stress response.
Paying attention to, and changing our breathing pattern, can be a powerful tool to use in our modern, fast paced and busy life. Breathing is free and is something we do all day every day – we simply need to learn how to use it and pay attention.
By paying attention to our breath and slowing its pace, depth and rate we can manually override an automatic stress response. In times of great pressure, stress and even pain,mindful breathing can establish equilibrium.
The practice of mindfulness and meditation teaches us to pay attention to the messages our body is sending. Noticing you are shallow breathing and then actively changing this to deep belly breathing will help you to calm down and move to a part of your brain that has more solutions and better decision making ability.
Qi Gong or Tai Chi, Pilates, yoga, and Alexander technique are all activities you can engage in to learn greater breath control. The Breathing Book by Danna Farhi is a brilliant book on the how and why of breath. At Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, we begin our day every day with Qi Gong at sunrise. We believe connecting to ourselves and paying attention to our breathing and its connection to the planet is an essential way to start the day. This is where awareness of breath is a focus, allowing our guests to set an intention for the day, to be mindful, to pay attention to their breathing in each moment.
A silent walk is another way we allow our guests to be more aware of their breathing while they are walking in nature. This often highlights how much is missed when they walk and talk with others. It is a rare chance to be silent and listen to the rhythm of the breath. Next time you go for a walk, go alone or go in silence and don’t have your phone in your hand.
You can practice wherever you are. This is the beauty and simplicity of the breath. Start by paying more attention to your breathing in different situations. In challenging moments, stop and try to deepen your breathing. Slow its pace. If you wake in the middle of the night, rather than thinking, planning and organising, bring your awareness to your breath.
Focus on deep belly breathing. Stay with it. This helps the body to relax and with the mind engaged on the breath, you can fall back to sleep.
Our heath and wellbeing is dependent on many elements however breath is the unsung hero. The reality is that learning how to relax can be as simple as breathing in and breathing out.
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