3 DEEP insights that can help you through this…
The International Breathwork Foundation (IBF) celebrated its annual World Breathing Day event earlier this month on April 11. It inspired me to want to share what I have learned about the importance of breathing in my coaching practice and personal journey!
Every day, we take between 17,000 and 30,000 breaths! Yet, most of us don’t think consciously about a single one. It is the first thing we do and the last thing we do. It is both conscious and unconscious. It is ONE thing we can control in this crazy world!
“Life is not measured by the number of Breaths we take, but by the Moments that take our Breath away.” Maya Angelou
A slow, deep breath can have a tremendously calming effect on our minds and bodies. It can help lower a rapid heart rate and stabilize our blood pressure. Deep breaths help us clear our heads, activate our parasympathetic nervous system so that we can deal with the stress we’re all experiencing right now and recenter our spirits before moving forward.
Some of you may already be familiar with the power of deep breathing. As ancient physical meditations, like yoga and qigong, have grown more popular, western cultures are realizing the benefits of conscious breathing combined with intentional motion. I practice qigong regularly to channel my energy, focus my breathing, and release any tension that exists within me.
Deep breathing can play a valuable role in this particular season of fear and uncertainty. The coronavirus continues to disrupt the lives of millions of people. It’s not unnatural to feel some level of anxiety, even if you are generally a relaxed person.
Most of us have never seen anything like what the world is going through right now. Some of you may have lost loved ones or friends or know people who have. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to mourn right now given with social distancing and stay-at-home orders in place…
Situations like these remind us that we don’t have complete control over our lives and surroundings. Sometimes, reality kicks us to the curb and shows us that we (humans) aren’t the masters of our domain.
“All things share the same breath, the beast, the tree, the man… the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.” Chief Seattle
Instead, we share this earth with millions of other species and live according to what it gives us. We also co-exist with Mother Earth – our actions impact one another tremendously.
Whenever we remember our lack of control concerning major global issues, like a pandemic, it’s easy to feel stressed or anxious. Those of you who have Type A personalities, especially, might feel helpless or discouraged.
I highly recommend that you engage in deep breathing exercises regularly to help calm your nerves and regain composure. In many ways, deep breathing is similar to sleep! Both are powerful, natural, holistic health practices that we can use every single day.
As you look for solutions to deal with rising anxiety levels and stress related to COVID-19, consider starting with conscious breathing, which doesn’t require any form of medication or formal therapy.
“My soul has grown deep like the rivers.” Langston Hughes
Here are three often-overlooked benefits of deep breathing that you will experience immediately:
- Deeper connection with nature
When we breathe with intention, it’s hard not to appreciate the air we take in. A deep breath can help connect us to the environment by drawing our attention to the world that produces what we desperately need – clean air and oxygen.
I’m sure many of you are like me in that when you go for a hike, you can’t help but pause, take in the views, and pull in a big lung-full of air to commemorate the moment. It’s natural for us to breathe deeply when we are enjoying nature.
Next time you are walking outside in the garden or through your neighbourhood, take a few deep breaths and think about the air you are breathing. I guarantee you will feel more connected to Mother Earth!
“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself and the Earth.” adapted from Ralph Waldo Emerson
2. Deeper connection with ourselves
As strange as it sounds, deep breaths help us reconnect with ourselves. When we take in air slowly through our noises and release it in a controlled manner, we engage our holistic selves.
We feel the air rush in and expand our lungs. We feel our bellies grow, and our upper chests release tension. We also feel the fog clear from our minds and the return of our emotional strength.
Meditation practices, like qigong, are particularly effective at forcing us to recenter ourselves. Exercises of this nature require focus, intention, and commitment because they engage our entire being. Take a deep breath and experience restoration in mind, body, and spirit.
“Trust and value your own divinity as well as your connection to nature and others.” adapted from Wayne Dyer
3. Deeper connection with others
There are only a few things that every human in this life needs to survive. Food, water, and oxygen are three of those things.
No matter how different people’s daily lives look around the world, the fact of the matter is that we share breathing in common. In the same way that a good meal can bring different cultures and people groups together, so, too, can a deep breath. Breathing has unifying power when we realize that it’s one of the few requirements we all have in this life.
Right now, the coronavirus is stripping many people of the ability to breathe without intense painful, disruption. For those of you who are healthy right now, appreciate the gift that clear breathing truly is. Realize that so many people cannot enjoy this simple experience at this moment.
By doing so, you will undoubtedly feel more connected to the rest of humankind, which is so important at a time when so many people are isolated.
“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Want to learn more about how I practice deep breathing?
Watch this video!