Take a deep breathe in...hold...exhale...hold...inhale and repeat.
Sometimes the simplest way to relax is to just breathe. We often forget this simple task. Our bodies are doing this everyday, yet we often do not even realize its happening. Thank goodness for involuntary body functions right? If we had to constantly realize and control our breathing we wouldn't have time to focus on anything else. Our bodies are constantly working and thinking and doing the biggest job of all-breathing-and without it we could not be. There are many times I find myself holding my breath or pausing like my mind body connection misfired for a moment and I forgot to check in.
We often even restrict our breath in moments of stress or when we are exerting ourselves. Have you noticed when you're exercising or reaching a point of fatigue you just stop breathing like it's going to make the moment easier? One of the most frequent reminders in yoga class is to "remember to breathe". When I give this reminder to students in class I say it because I am noticing how I am holding my breath.
It's interesting that we must remind ourselves to breathe; the most natural innate function of our body to survive but we need this reminder most when we need to return to center and recognize our body.
The breath is the very source of all life and allows us to not just live, but to focus on the way we are living. When you feel yourself losing it or unable to control something happening around you; remember you can control the breath. My anxiety has been more relevant in this time of life than ever before. I try to remember what I do have control over; my breath and my ability to relax my body and mind. My most visited exercise is deep long belly breaths. Deep belly breathing is the precursor to meditation but also to many other forms of relaxation. When you feel panic approaching or even intense physical activity, deep breaths get us through. I love belly breathing. Belly breathing allows me to fully analyze my body and create a rhythm of harmony. Eventually, this rhythm becomes mindless and effortless; sometimes transforming into meditation. Deep belly breaths allow more efficient oxygen to flow through the body than a big breath focused in the ribs. You feel the tummy engage and fill completely and then contract as the breath fully leaves from the body. This action relaxes the autonomic nervous system and calms the body down to a truly relaxed state.
Try taking in a deep belly breath as you read now....hold it for three, two, one...release it completely... hold for three, two, one...take another deep breath in.
Repeat this over and over until you feel yourself releasing and relaxing to complete calmness. This is a space I visit when I am having a hard time falling asleep at night; sometimes coupled with counting sheep, I can fall asleep in just a few minutes. When our thoughts are focused on this harmonic system we ultimately transform into a meditative state sometimes without even realizing its happening. This increased oxygen allows for body cell repair, strengthening the core muscles, of course increasing lung capacity, and increased oxygen to the brain. We create more red blood cells and increase the cells that work to fight off disease. We become stronger at taking control over our fight or flight response and therefore the release of cortisol, our stress hormone that can cause an array of other problems like belly fat and a weakened immune system.
I often 'check in' with myself throughout the day. Am I still here? How does my body feel? Where has my mind been wondering the past few hours? Am I present?...
Remember to check in with yourself, do that full body scan and ask those questions, and come back to center. This does't need to be reserved for stressful situations but should be done many times throughout the day. I really believe that when we come back to awareness and remember we are in this body, this mind just like everyone else; we feel how connected we all are. The earth is constantly exchanging from itself. The trees, plants, and water give off oxygen for other life to live. We in turn offer our carbon dioxide back to the earth. This exchange is a beautiful thing and shows just how connected everything is. Perhaps, the breath you just took came from me. Perhaps it came from someone you have disagreed with before. Let us all acknowledge our shared space and remember no matter what, we are the same...just trying to live and love this life.
My breath is your breath.
Yoga Instructor at Light On Yoga Fitness
Health and Wellness Advocate