The benefits of breathing, the process that is naturally created by our wonderful bodies to keep us going from day to day, the very process that is there without us giving it any conscious thought. But what can happen when we give our breath conscious thought?
When we take time to notice the breath a wonderful new world can unravel, and we really can begin to reap the benefits. Did you know that within the animal kingdom a slower breathing rate = to a longer life, hence why tortoise live so long, elephants and alligators (sometimes one breath a minute) are also within that spectrum. Moving to the opposite end of the scale, mice, rabbits & cats have a faster breathing rate, which in turn equals a shorter life span. Simply put, the more thought we can put into creating a slower breath, the longer and healthier our life will be.
When we are faced with stressful situations, anxiety, overwhelming emotions, physical challenges within our exercise regime our breath will become compromised, have you ever noticed yourself in an exercise class holding your breath? Or you're over come with fear or frustration, again the breath will be compromised.
So I'm here to share with you the benefits of acknowledging your breath!
+ Deep breathing releases mental tension and stress. It calms the mind by filling the body with more oxygen,
+ Breathing deep supplies more oxygen to all our body parts including our digestive system, thus making it work more efficiently. The increased blood flow due to deep breathing also encourages intestinal action which further improves your overall digestion.
+ Carbon dioxide is a natural toxic waste that comes out from our body only through breathing. But when our lungs are compromised by shallow breathing the other detoxification system starts working harder to expel this waste. This can make our body weaker and lead to illness.
+ Incorrect or shallow breathing can be one of the factors or bad posture. From shallow breathing, the muscles within the chest and shoulders can become tight, with this literally pulling us in on ourselves our shoulders round, our spine begins to follow suit, wonder why your upper and lower back are in continuous pain? Within a day are you flexing and extending the spine? Sadly it can become a vicious cycle if we don't start do help ourselves.
Try it, slump over and round through the spine. Can you take a deep breath? Now sit tall, open the chest, looking forwards or even upwards, now breathe!!
+ The amount of oxygen that we inhale through our breathing, influences the amount of energy that is released into our body cells. Due to increased blood flow, we get more oxygen into our blood. Increased oxygen results in increased energy levels.
+ When you take shallow rapid breaths or hold your breath, the sympathetic response is activated which is often known as fight or flight. This means your body is in a state of adrenaline, when it doesnt need to be. Imagine your heart rate working twice as hard and your body is ready for a fight all day! When you take slow, steady breaths the parasympathetic response is activated and your brain gets the message that all is well and your body isn't in a stressful situation, the muscles and heart can relax, making your body and mind calmer too.
+ Live life longer, with more freedom within the body and mind. I hope from the little notes above you start to notice everything that is affected by the breath. Shallow breathing can create bad posture, bad posture can increase aches and pains, even injury, pain within the body can create discomfort within our emotional state and hinder our motivation to exercise. The stresses of modern life on top of that we can just be fit to burst with anxiety.
Just by breathing we can create space physically within the body, the more we can increase our lung capacity the calmer the mind. Our posture improves because we start to feel lighter within ourselves, we can stand taller. With our head held high our spirits start to lift and we almost feel as if we can face anything within our day. Breathing in deeply, and breathing out deeply.
The goal is to stay with the breath as best we can, for as long as we can, whenever we notice our mind "thinking," we simply recognize the content as "just another thought" (thereby letting said thought go), and slowly return our attention to the breath.
And we do our best to not judge where the mind wanders off to or get frustrated at how many times it wanders off. Whether we catch ourselves daydreaming, worrying, replaying memories, making to do lists, or whatever - with infinite patience and understanding, we gently let our thought(s) go and we bring our attention back to the natural rhythm and flow of the breath. Again and again.
So next time you are feeling a little stressed, angry, you're running around like a headless chicken, take a few minutes (even 1 minute works) to just breath, listening to the sound, feeling the sensation, and allowing your breath to create movement within your belly, your chest and your collar bones. With every breath out, relax into yourself, soften your rigid edges and let your body and mind become calm.
Buddha himself recognized and emphasized the importance of the breath, once saying "being sensitive to the whole body, the yogi breathes in; being sensitive to the whole body, the yogi breathes out."