The Power of Conscious Breathing

“For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth.” Sanskrit Proverb

Conscious Breathing

Breath is the only autonomous system of the body that we can control, this means the body governs it but we can change how we breathe through conscious breathing practices. We inhale and exhale approximately 20,000 times per day, with up to ten muscles that can be utilized for inhalation and eight for forced exhalation. Since regular breathing is an unconscious act it often becomes shallower over time. Our breath is an indicator of our mood and our mood is an indicator of our breath. This means that if we change how we breathe we can change our mood. It also means that when our mood changes so does our breath.

Long Deep Breathing

When we aren’t mindful, most of us tend to breathe shallow breaths into the very top part of our lungs. There’s a significant difference between how we breathe when we’re not bringing awareness to our breath and how we breathe when we saturate our attention with each inhale and exhale. Long deep breathing oxygenates the body, massages the nervous system and inner organs, creates micromovements to align the spine and restores the proper pH balance in the bloodstream. 

When you feel anxious, your body is in fight-or-flight mode. Breath-wise, this means that your body is acting from the sympathetic nervous system (your body’s stress responder) and is purposefully taking shorter, shallower breaths in order to match the instinct of preparing to fight or flee. The result is an influx of oxygen into your body when you don’t need it, because you’re likely sitting in your car or at a business meeting rather than running for dear life. Slowing your breathing down and taking controlled, deep breaths turns off the sympathetic nervous system by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). The PSNS controls your body’s “rest-and-digest” (vs. fight-or-flight) response for returning to balance and stability. Deep breaths are a signal to your body that you’re ready to rest and digest, which is why Long Deep Breathing is so important.

Long Deep Breathing Practice (Laying or sitting)

Lie flat or sit up straight with your spine balanced over your sitting bones. Place your hands on your diaphragm with your palms flat, no space between the fingertips. Relax your stomach and inhale through your nose. Your fingers should separate as the abdomen expands. Exhale through your nose pulling your naval in slightly to facilitate the complete voiding of air, to prepare for the next inhale. Practice this until you’re able to breathe deeply without having strain. Practice long deep breathing for 3-11 mins. (while practicing you can keep your hands resting in your lap)

TIP: If your mind wanders and you become inpatient, bring your awareness to the nostrils. Focus on the air moving through the nostrils and filling the body. Focus on it rushing out.

Some articles on conscious breathing:

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