Imagine sitting curled up in front of an open log fire. Feel its warmth on your face. See its flickering orange and yellow flames dance nimbly, reaching out as if to entice you in.
A fire’s energy and vibrancy depends not only on kindling, paper, wood and matches but on oxygen to feed it . . . so too do we. We can survive without food for several weeks, without water for days but can’t survive without breathing for more than a few minutes. Yet we take breathing for granted until that is it is impacted by ill health.
Our everyday language reminds us of the importance of the breath. We pause for breath, breathe a sigh of relief, breathe new life into something.
I invite you to connect with and observe your breath. Is it regular, deep and calm? Or maybe its uneven, shallow or feels constricted. May be you experience headaches or difficulty sleeping. As this uneasiness increases you may feel anxious, restless or find it hard to concentrate. All are signs that your body may be out of balance.
Breathing is a process of taking in and letting go. When we breathe in oxygen it is pumped by the heart around the body via red blood cells. There it creates the energy to contract our muscles, repair old and generate new cells, feed our brains and calm our nerves. Breathing out releases carbon dioxide and waste matter.
Thankfully the body doesn’t rely on us to ensure breathing happens. It happens naturally from the day we are born, till the day we draw our last breath, which is just as well, as we would most likely forget.
However the quality and quantity of the breath is important. Oxygen makes up 21% of the air we breathe in. However it only has to drop below 19.5% for us to become oxygen deficient, which means we perform less efficiently – cellular function is impaired, weakening our immune system and inviting dis-ease within.
The good news is that the depth and pace of our breath IS under our control and can be changed at any given moment.
I invite you to join me in a short exercise. Place a hand on your belly as you focus your attention on following your breath. As you breathe in visualise the air entering your nose and travelling down into your lungs. Notice how your ribs expand, your diaphragm drops and belly rises slightly. As you breathe out feel your belly drop, your diaphragm rise and push the air back up and out through your nose. Take a moment to notice what you notice. How do you feel?
When we connect with the breath we naturally slow down and breath more deeply. As a result we feel calmer, our muscles relax, we feel lighter, have more energy and can think more clearly.
Being more aware of how your breathing changes throughout the day, can help you learn what stresses and what engages you and when normal stress turns into worry and anxiety. Investing time, as little as 10 minutes a day, to consciously breathe can:
- relieve anxiety
- increase energy
- enhance cognitive function and by that I mean decision making, problem solving and creative thinking
- improve sleep and
- strengthen the immune system
In my experience daily conscious breathing enables me to stay present, grounded and calm and adapt to the ebb and flow of life. When we lose touch with the breath we lose touch with our greatest ally.
Life is a precious gift, say yes to life and breathe . . .