Just breathe

Zen flower loto near stones on white backgroundThe breath is vital to our existence. The first thing we do upon birth is inhale, and the last thing we do before death is exhale. The breath is life; it is our prana, our life energy. Between those two life markers (birth and death), what is the quality of our breathing? Are you even aware of your breath?

Observing the breath…it can tell us so much about ourselves. Are you a shallow, rapid breather? Do you hold your breath? Is the breath smooth and even? Everyone has a unique breath; no two individuals will breathe alike even during guided pranayama (practice of controlled breathing exercises). Many of us live in a state of heightened adrenal function. Modern stress, daily grind, over stimulation leads to living in a state of “fight or flight” in which our breath is quick, shallow, and choppy. I’ve encountered numerous friends and neighbors who have recently told me that they constantly hold their breath; they are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. This revelation deeply disturbs me. Why aren’t people breathing? What sort of society have we created that we live in fear of what’s around the corner?

Rather than holding our breaths and waiting, let’s collectively exhale. Let the fear, anxiety, and stress expire from your being. And, on the next inhale, breath in all that is good, fresh, and nourishing to the soul. Try sitting in silence for 10 minutes every day. Pick anytime that works for you: upon waking, as the coffee brews, on the commuter train, while the pasta boils for dinner, before bed, whenever. Just notice your breath, without controlling it or changing it for a minute or two. Then, take nice smooth, full, deep inhales and nice, smooth, full, deep exhales. After 3-5 rounds of this, start to count gently to 3 or 4 on the inhale, then count that same number in reverse on the exhale. Continue for a good 5-7 minutes. Then, stop controlling the breath and observe your natural breath for another minute. How do you feel?

After several days or even weeks of this simple pranayama practice, you will start to become more aware of your breath, especially during stressful events. Deep inhales and exhales help to relax the body and soothe the nervous system. It’s why your parents told you to take a deep breath and count to ten before yelling at your little sister! 🙂

Namaste’ Y’all! ~~ Carrie Anne