Conscious Breathing…what is it? And how is it different than normal breathing? You’re probably wondering how an article on breathing could be fascinating since we do it all the time. Let me remind you: breathing is how we know we are alive.
But I ask you, to follow with me, and realize how deeply essential proper breathing is. And how conscious breathing, can improve your experience of life. Especially all the moments, you’ll breathe into.
Breathe = Spirit
My favorite author, Dr. Andrew Weil, the pioneer of Integrative Medicine has written many books. His favorite and most popular remedy is his 4-7-8 Breathe which is easy to find description and instruction on: https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/
I met Dr. Andrew Weil once in San Francisco, CA at a Yoga Convention in 2014. He’s a fantastic person.
In several of his books, he points out that the word “breath” and “spirit” are the same in many cultures: “Ruach” in Hebrew; “Pneuma” in Greek; “Spiritus” in Latin; “Prana” in Sanskrit.
Breathing & Meditation
Great, so the origin root words for breath and spirit are the same in many cultures. How does this help?
In many meditation practices, the conscious awareness of the breath is utilized. This is also commonly practiced in various forms of Yoga.
Meditation is powerful in its own right. But breathing is special because…
Breathing: The Sympathetic & Parasympathetic Nervous System
If you ever get to compare, observe someone who is afraid and anxious versus someone who is calm and peaceful. Aside from the mental differences in their state of mind, the most obvious physiologically is their breathing. Stressed, anxious, and afraid people have shallow, short, and rapid breaths (Sympathetic). Most people unconsciously breathe this way because of poor habits, no one ever taught them, or commonly: stress. With growing responsibilities, pressures, debts, and expectations, it is easier to find stress…or maybe stress finds us.
Relaxed and peaceful people have deeper, slower, and longer breaths (Parasympathetic). It’s in the breath that we are able to physically and voluntarily change our physiology. Through conscious deeper, slower, and longer breaths—you can literally “trick” your mind into thinking it’s calm. It’s hacking into your system, in the most powerful way possible. Your breath.
And by doing so, you can avoid the inappropriate floods of extreme stress hormones being released and wreaking havoc in your body.
Wim Hof & Breathing
The “Ice-Man”. You’ve probably seen his videos of swimming in arctic waters, nearly naked, and surviving through extreme temperates. His claim to his almost supernatural powers is through conscious breathing. Wim Hof has particular breathing exercises that he claims can boost immunity and resistance to disease.
What’s even more fascinating, is that researchers who have studied Wim Hof, are convinced his method works. Check out his latest work, The Wim Hof Method: https://amzn.to/3mt7b2j*
Wim Hof stresses the importance of using the diaphragm in breathing. The diaphragm is the muscle below the lungs and partakes in deep lower lung activity. This is important: the lower lungs, when activated, produces a feeling of immediate calm.
Breathing: Deeply Into The Present
Along with the physical benefits of Conscious Breathing, I love breathing myself deeply into the moment. It’s a version of a mini-meditation session when I close my eyes, breathe through my nose, and out through my mouth.
I’ve used conscious breathing exercises in my most demanding, terrible, and intense moments. It’s been my go-to when I’m feeling blue, or in the past during a hard breakup, or when I’m at a cross-road needing to remind myself, no matter which I choose, I’ll be okay because I trust myself.
It’s in this we can recalibrate ourselves when we are too saturated into the expectations of our worries and anxieties. And the pressures of the world. Your breath is always with you.
Breathing in deeply, into the present moment, is the gift I give myself. It’s a way of checking in. It’s a way of reminding myself of the gift of life.
Because if Breath & Spirit are the same…
Then Your Breath is Your Barometer
Do you find it poetic and fascinating that we all enter the world with an inhale…and when we leave, an exhale? It’s a perfectly designed rhythm. And it strongly reminds me of the quote:
Strangulation: From Poor Breathing
Utilize the works of Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 Breath or Wim Hof’s Methods. The point is, to breathe. Deeply. Get the oxygen flowing in your body.
The fact is, because of poor breathing habits (you’ll find most people breathe through their mouths only), you literally are starving yourself of proper oxygen utilization. Let me rephrase that, most people go through life, being strangled—by poor breathing habits!
CO2 levels and Oxygen levels in the human body are on a delicate balance (homeostasis). Mouth breathing depletes your CO2 greatly, and to rebalance this excessive loss, the body will protect itself by reducing the absorption of Oxygen.
Remember, everything in nature—including your physical body—exists in constantly trying to achieve equilibrium.
Breathing: The Power of a Yawn
We often attribute yawning to being tired. Why does it feel so good to yawn? Your body is seeking a rush of Oxygen! That oxygen will invigorate cells in the body, as well as take out the build-up of extracellular waste.
So if the above section doesn’t interest you, at least consider that by poor breathing, you’re allowing waste products to build up. Hoarding is not sexy physically, neither is hoarding waste products in your body.
I want you to visualize, that your lungs are like bellows, using air to increase the intensity of a fire. By proper deep breathing practices, you increase the strength of your respiratory system. And you increase the robustness of other systems as well.
As you increase deep intentional breathing, your circulatory system lights up. And as your circulatory system lights up, organs begin to come alive more strongly. And as more organs work at optimal peak performance—from the wealth of oxygen, they are receiving—this excites your brain because it allows it to feel more connected and in charge of all the organs it’s managing.
Lack Of Breathing: Stagnation
Stagnation is an interesting concept used. Blockages, whether physically, mentally, or even spiritually, are what causes disease. You find this true in Eastern philosophies of medicine (i.e. releasing blockages of “Chi/Qi” through Acupuncture, etc.) and Western philosophies of medicine (i.e. massage for lymphatic drainage, blood thinners for clots, etc.).
Blockages cause stagnation. Stagnation causes disease.
By breathing deeply, you can help your body reduce stagnation in the body. And this empowered and enriched feeling permeates to affect the well being of your mind as well.
Breathe your best life. Literally. When things are tough because of a current situation, or you are going through something intense physically, the power of your breath is with you. So utilize it.
In fact, one useful tip I learned from those who practice Psychedelic Assisted Therapy is that anxiety, when added to any strong experience, will take things into “bad trip” territory. It’s in the power of the breath, you can avoid that.
And we can take something powerful from that. We can use this trick in everyday life.
So, I encourage you to be mindful of your breathing. Learn the tricks of ancient practices, that allows you to get in touch either with your: spirit, your inner well-being, or simply to get your physiology working the best—for you.
Until next time. Stay safe and well.
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