How's your breath?

If someone told you there is something that could help you improve your digestion, your focus, and lower your stress levels without a pill, or without food and it wouldn’t cost a thing, would you be interested?

What if this magic pill was already something you already have, or better yet, you’re already doing 33,000 times per day!

It’s your breath.

Controlling your breath – whether you are meditating, doing the dishes, driving a car, or sitting in a meeting – can help you calm your nervous system and change your whole state of being.

In yoga, they call this the pranayama or breath control.

The beauty of breathing is that it is automatic – but that doesn’t mean we can't do it more intentionally. No one taught us how to breathe, in fact when we were babies we naturally took deep relaxed belly breaths. It’s life that has untaught us how to breathe deeply.

Our posture can affect our breathing. When we sit we tend to round our shoulders causing the chest to tighten and limiting our rib cage to expand. This causes more rapid shallow breaths.

Count your breaths

Most people breath 14-20 times per minute. When we breathe faster, we “ping” the brain more often triggering it to activate the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) which increases our stress hormones, heart rate, blood pressure, and even anxiety.

Our stress levels, our activity and even mental stimulation like the pings and pongs of social media announcing a new message that keep our brain hyper focused.

When we slow our breath down and breath into our bellies, it triggers our body to relax into the “rest and digest” mode.

Bottomline, our breath rate is directly related to our mood and our autonomic nervous system. Our brain also requires a lot of oxygen to help us think clearly and feel grounded and focused.

And although it is automatic, we can control it to help us stay calm even in stressful situations.

Try this exercise:

Set your phone timer for one minute. Without changing your breathing, count how many breaths you take. Notice your breathing pattern. Are you breathing through your nose or mouth? Does your chest rise or does your belly?

Next, set your time for another minute. Take long deep breaths through your nose. Deep breathing, or belly breathing, happens when you expand your belly and diaphragm and pull and push air in and out of your lungs. Try to take a short pause at the end of the exhale and inhale.

How did your breathing change? Did you feel more relaxed as you lengthened your breaths?

Notice your breath throughout the day and come back to your breath as often as you can to slow down, take it all in.

I would love to hear what you noticed. Take a second to share what you noticed during this breathing exercise.

Be intentional about your breath to be more intentional about your life.

Looking for more exercises to help you tune into your body? My woman’s self-care journal, THIS IS ME: Inquiries, exercises and ideas for discovering your healthiest life helps you come home to your body and be more intentional about your self-care.

Click here to learn more.

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Tracey MillerComment