When is the last time you sat with the rise and fall of your own breath?
Try and pinpoint it.
Maybe it was this morning during your meditation.
Or during your Saturday morning yoga class.
Was it after a moment of chaos last week.
Maybe you have never sat with the rise and fall of your breath. Yikes.
I can not even begin to express how important breath work has been to my healing process.
Think about it.
What do you say to your toddler who is having a tantrum?
B R E A T H E.
What do you say to your teenager when they come home upset from a day dodging bullies?
B R E A T H E.
What do you say to a woman in labor?
B R E A T H E.
You literally go through classes on how to breathe while giving birth.
When you hurt yourself you instinctively start to control your breathing.
Think about when you stub your toe.
Other than your toe, where does your attention go?
When you get in an argument and are trying to soothe yourself, where does your attention go?
When you are anxious, where does your attention go?
The answer is always the same.
Every stressful situation comes back to your breath.
& somehow we forget about it the rest of the time.
Your breath is an automatic function.
You don't have to think about it in order to survive.
But you should think about it if you want to thrive.
A QUICK BIOLOGY LESSON
The nervous system is divided into two categories.
The central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS).
The CNS contains your brain and spinal cord.
The PNS contains all nerves outside the brain and spinal cord.
The job of the PNS is to relay information from all organs to your brain and spinal cord to perform tasks.
The PNS is further divided into the somatic nervous system (SNS) and the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
The SNS is responsible for voluntarycontrol of body movements.
The ANS is involved in the involuntarycontrol of body functions such as heart rate, digestion, pupillary response, urination, sexual arousal and breathing!
Ding ding ding!
Now here lies the problem.
Our ANS is divided into the parasympathetic nervous system "rest and digest" and the sympathetic nervous system "fight or flight".
I hope you can guess which mode we want our body to hibernate in.
Parasympathetics = Homeostasis
Homeostasis means the body is regulating internal conditions properly.
A damn good place to be in.
Unfortunately, "rest and digest" is not a common force among our lifestyles.
The majority of us lie in constant "fight or flight" mode.
When you are taking quick, short breaths you are activating your sympathetic nervous system.
The one we don't like.
You're getting by.
But when you take slow, deep breaths pulling oxygen all the way down to your core you activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
Our body likes this place.
This place feels good.
This is where we thrive.
BREATH WORK AND HEALING
Take a moment and think about this.
If I am in "rest and digest" mode (parasympathetics), I am in homeostasis.
This means body processes are properly functioning.
My heart rate is normal, my sex drive is good, i'm digesting food, etc.
If you are constantly in "fight or flight" mode (sympathetics) you are in an elevated state of stress.
This causes body functions to not operate properly.
You will experience increased heart rate, low libido, poor digestion and a continuous surge of epinephrine.
This imbalance can cause serious health issues.
Is it unhealthy to visit the "fight or flight" mode?
There are major benefits.
It is there for a reason.
We just have to stop spending our lives there.
We have to take a moment and think about our breath.
While it is involuntaryfor survival, our health can be upgraded byvoluntarilypaying attention to it.
By taking time to care for it.
By respecting it.
I have had some incredible health breakthroughs by breath work alone.
Something I will talk about someday.
But today, I just want to give you some basics on how to get started.
HOW TO UPLEVEL YOUR BREATHING
Because I know it is damn near impossible to try and talk you people into taking more than ten minutes for yourself a couple times a day, I will leave you with my number one piece of advice to uplevel your breathing and encourage better health outcomes.
This was a tip from a breath work specialist at Mayo.
Take anywhere from 10 seconds to four minutes in between each task to concentrate on your breathing.
& I mean between every task.
Every single task.
We so often get to the end of the day and our sympathetic nervous system is off the charts.
Our ears are ringing.
Our palms are sweaty.
Our body is vibrating.
Take time between your tasks to slow down.
To care for your breath.
To respect your health.
When I started, I needed the full four minutes, sometimes more.
Just to slow down my breathing.
Eighteen months later, I barely have to think about it.
It is a natural part of my day.
I mosey to my next task most times without breaking now.
I just bring my attention to my breath as I make my way to the next task.
In the beginning, I would do one of two things :
1. Stand wherever I completed my task with one hand on my belly and one hand on my back. I would slowly breath in, pause for four seconds and slowly release. I would really concentrate on the movement of my hand on my belly to make sure I was breathing down into my core and not into my chest.
2. If I had a place to lay or was unsuccessful standing, I would lay on my back with one hand just below my ribs and the other on my pelvis. I would practice the same breathing technique. Breathe in, hold for four seconds, slowly release.
Additionally, it is beneficial to spend some dedicated time to breathing every day.
If you are willing to wake up 20 minutes earlier, go to bed 20 minutes later or give up 20 minutes of television or cell phone use throughout the day, use ten of those minutes in the morning and ten at night to dedicate to just concentrating on your breathing.
Use one of the two techniques I described above; standing or laying.
Put some time and effort into this.
& yes, it feels so strange at first.
It takes time to experience the benefits.
It won't come your first try, or even your first month.
It takes some dedication.
It will feel vulnerable.
You may experience weird sensations.
Stick with it.
I promise it will be worth it.
B R E A T H E