By Dolores Day
“The moment we start connecting to our breath, we connect with life itself.”
— Denise Kaufman
I remember the first time someone asked me if I did conscious breathing practices. Inside I was rolling my eyes at the very thought that I needed to waste time doing the very thing that my body so intelligently did on its own for decades now. Ignorance laced with pride is unattractive, so I did listen to my peer at the time and took in health education that for years I had otherwise dismissed. Having an open mind is a beautiful thing.
I learned about the vagus nerve that impacts our parasympathetic nervous system. This system is responsible for controlling vital systems in our body like blood pressure, breathing, heartbeat and digestion. It is true that our body has hardwired within it an involuntary intelligence to perform these functions. Yet, I came to understand that when this nerve is stimulated it has the ability to affect all of these systems positively which then produce a cascading emotional response within our bodies like decreased anxiety, lower stress, and enhanced overall peaceful feelings.
What can we do on purpose or consciously to activate this nerve to reap these benefits throughout a typical day? We must begin to practice conscious breathing. If I told you all you had to do was place your hands on the trunk of your car three times a day for one minute and your car would go twice as far with half the gas, would you do it? I think most people would say yes, especially with increasing fuel prices!
This is what a few minutes of focused and intentional breathing will do for our bodies. When we cultivate and practice deep, rhythmic breathing several times a day we stimulate this nerve and remove energy blocks present in the body. Releasing these blocks helps us to improve the flow of natural energy (breath/spirit) in the body as well as reduce the physiological and emotional imbalances that insidiously creep in. More flow, more energy, less stress. Who doesn’t want more of this free fuel?
Interesting enough, the Greek word “pneuma” means “spirit” as well as “breath.” So, like the quote above, connecting to our breath is also helping us to connect to life, the very thing that is sustaining our physical bodies to this plane. I have come to experience that connecting to my breath not only has physiological benefits but spiritual ones as well. Our breath is one of the fastest ways to slow down and realign us with our own true inner being as well as to the One that offers this very breath to us. Where there is intentional conscious breathing, you will also find balance, connection and peace.
To create healing for the body we must employ these invisible forces with intentional breathwork. Where the mind goes, the body will follow. Our mind must begin to require this practice daily. There are many different forms, techniques and types to be learned.
However, I like to keep it simple. I believe in habit, which occurs by cultivating the repetition of any practice in our life over and over again. To encourage this discipline, simply setting a timer on your phone three times a day will remind you to pause what you’re doing, sit still, upright, and bring your focused attention to your breath. Six deep, slow breaths will take you no longer than 60 seconds to complete. Taking your time to inhale as slowly as you can through the nose, and taking even longer to exhale that breath back through the nose is all it takes!
I like to repeat the words “inhale love” as I breathe in and “exhale peace” in my mind as I breathe out. Developing this habit while you are out in nature will absolutely enhance your experience as well. One more subtle suggestion, is placing your hand over your heart during this breathwork which will improve your connection to your true self.
What I know to be true is if you will invest three minutes a day connecting to the flow of the very life force energy that supports you, your body, mind and soul will reap exponential rewards. So little is necessary to foster such great health benefits. As you develop this habit in your life, you will find that you no longer need a timer to remind you to practice as the work feels so amazing that you will find yourself voluntarily going to it more and more often during your day.
Inhale love, exhale peace.
(De Day is an empowerment life coach who specializes in helping women create and live their best life by teaching them mind-body-soul truths and implementing powerful transformative practices. To work with her privately please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at de-day.com.)