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Checking in with the breath

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

During May we will particularly focus on the breath.

Breathing is an automatic function of the body that is controlled by the respiratory centre of the brain and even that it is our most constant and necessary activity, yet we often don’t think about it. Many of us breathe inefficiently : we breathe through our mouths, taking shallow breaths and using our chests rather than our diaphragms. However, you can train yourself to improve your breathing, you can become aware of the natural medical benefits of slow, deep breathing, which has been demonstrated to lower stress, improve circulation, and benefit your cardiovascular system.

When we feel stressed, our breathing rate and pattern changes as part of the ‘fight-or-flight response’ : we are likely to be more anxious, angry and say things the we do not mean. The stress hormones which will prepare us to fight, flight or freeze help us to be alert but are meant to be used only for short amounts of time.

Fortunately, we also have the power to deliberately change our own breathing. Scientific studies have shown that controlling your breath can help to manage stress. How can we do that?

First of all you can start by observing. Don't try to change anything, just observe your breath, You can even take some notes and journal your breath : keep diary notes for a few weeks.

You will notice that the breath is constantly changing.

See if you can find 2 or 3 times during the day to stop your activity and watch your breath : find different situations, for example : when you wake up, when you are at work, when you are back at home at night .

If you are wondering how to do it, simply take a moment, sit and sense your breathing. You will find that as soon as you start observing your breath, you will tend to modify it . Try not to and simply ask yourself a few questions:

Where am I breathing?

You can try bringing one hand to your chest, and one on your belly. Can you feel the movement of your breath? At first you may think that you feel nothing, give yourself some time. Take notes.

How does it feel?

Think about some adjectives you can put to your breath... smooth? mechanical?

Take notes.

Take any additional notes about yourself in those particular moments. (Time of the day, is you feel hungry, sleepy , annoyed, if you are alone or with someone else).

Keep these notes all together and see if you can notice any pattern, any result that pulls your attention. You can use this information as your start point where you can come back in several weeks to check on them.

Is there a right way of breathing?

The best way to breath is the way that supports the activity that you are doing.

Free and effective breathing does, however,have certain characteristics. Some of these are:

  • Calm and regular

  • Diaphragmatic

  • Flexible

  • Effortless

(We will be developing these contents during the following classes in May)

Periods of breath observance will allow you to become aware of key habits and to make healthy adjustments in your breathing and into your daily life.

But remember that changes in breathing result from discoveries made over time rather than during a single session. Only a regular practice will make the difference.

The final tip: try to find enjoyment in your practice.

Even though it may be tough to follow these exercises regularly, the practice can undoubtedly enhance your life. But don’t have expectations to progress in a particular time frame, we should think this as a life-long experience. No matter what else is going on in your life, let your practice be your escape. Breathe in, breathe out, and forget about the world around you. Just enjoy it !

* Minding the breath

Enough. These few words are enough,

If not these words, this breath.

If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life

we have refused

again and again

until now.

Until now.

-David Whyte

*From: “ The breathing book” by Donna Farhi

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