Breathing is essential to sustaining life yet most adults don’t know how to do it. As a result, we cut ourselves off from our life force, limit our body’s ability to heal itself, and reduce the flow of oxygen to our brain. Breathing releases 70 percent of our body’s toxins, therefore, better breathing equals fewer toxins. If you suffer from brain fog, or often feel tired, anxious or emotionally spent, you may want to look no further than at the way you breathe. Beyond the physiological aspects, many spiritual traditions see the breath as a connection to a force that supports all life, call it God or Spirit.
Forgetting to Breathe
It wasn’t until I attended my first yoga retreat in my mid-thirties that I gained any awareness about how shallow and constricted my breathing was. I was in the thick of running a national, publicly traded company—I didn’t have time for intentional breathing! After that retreat, I quickly learned that I couldn’t sustain my pace without paying for it at some point, and I would never be present to my life if I didn’t start to breathe differently.
After learning how to breathe properly, I still forgot to return to intentional breathing when I most needed to. Eventually, my wife gave me a framed print with the word breathe written in beautiful calligraphy. It sits on top of a bookshelf in my office, replacing the Post-it note reminder I used to have on my computer screen. Beyond the physical and mental benefits, that framed print has saved me from sending many mean emails and having my body tied in knots while on the phone.
All it Takes is Two Minutes a Day
To recapture lost energy, gain clarity and stay grounded in the presence of challenge, incorporate the following three-part, two-minute practice into your day.
- Be Still. Take two minutes near the start of your day. Do this alone or with others present, in your office or living room, after a workout or sitting at your desk. Sit, stand or lie down in such a way that your spine is straight. Simply take notice of your breathing. Notice the in breath, notice the out breath.
- Breathe Deep. A quality breath comes from your diaphragm. If your abdomen and lower back (below your rib cage) are not expanding and contracting, you’re breathing from your chest or upper lungs. This is shallow and incomplete breathing. A quality breath fills the diaphragm, middle and upper lungs.
- Connect to Your Heart. Bring your attention to your heart. You may need to move your attention from your gut (which is one of the places we hold our anxiety) or your head (where we endlessly problem solve). Yet your heart is a source of intelligence and aliveness, and is the center from which you connect with yourself and others. If you do this, you might even connect to another unconscious process—the heart pulse.
This simple, two-minute practice can have a profound affect on your entire day. If you are skeptical, try it right now. Do it everyday for two weeks and I will almost guarantee (I’m starting to sound like Tony Robbins) you will find greater ease and space in your life and will be better equipped to handle the next bump in the road. Post a comment on how it is working for you.
As a Zen Master once told me at the beginning of a ten-day silent retreat, “Life is fleeting, don’t miss a breath.”