Breath is something you can't live without ... literally! It was the first thing you did when you came into this world and will be the last thing you do when you leave. Most of the time you probably don't realise you're breathing. It's something you do without thinking and it's important for keeping you alive. Did you know that humans can go about 40 days without food, about three days without water, and just a couple of minutes without air? Without air the brain starves of oxygen, normal body functions cease to exist and eventually we die. Thank goodness that the process of breathing is something the body does automatically. There’s really no need for us to give it much thought. Or is there?
When used consciously, your breath can allow you to disconnect from your mind and open you up to guidance from your body and heart. I like to think of breathing as an active form of meditation as it has the power to take the body out of a feeling of overwhelm and into a feeling of calm. It can also deepen concentration, and heighten efficiency while reducing stress.
The practice of using the breath in a conscious and controlled manner to achieve a specific benefit is known as Breathwork. There are lots of different breathwork techniques, and each one has a unique purpose and effect on the body. Here are three beginner techniques that deserve a spot in your 'self-care tool kit' and some ideas for how and when to use them.
Feeling Overwhelmed? Use 4-7-8 breathing
I love this one and use it often as it is so relaxing. 4-7-8 breathing helps to slow down and calm the body. It slows the heart rate, brings our consciousness to the present moment, and slows the nervous system, bringing a feeling of calm and peace.
This breathing practice is ideal when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, angry, triggered, and have trouble sleeping. It has the added bonus of teaching the body to take in less (in a culture where we saturate the mind and body with external stimulation), how to create space between inhale and exhale, as well as how to release excess energy and thought from the body.
How to do it:
Start the 4-7-8 breathing practice by emptying the lungs of air. Then breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale out of your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat this cycle at least 4 times.
Want an energy boost? Use 4-4-4-4 breathing
This breathing practice slows the heart rate and deepens concentration. It heightens efficiency and performance, as well as provides stress relief. It's best to use in the morning to wake up, in the middle of the day if sleepy, or before a big project or meeting that requires your focus.
How to do it:
Start this breathing practice by releasing all of the air from your chest. Then hold your breath for 4 seconds, then breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 4 seconds, then exhale out of your nose for 4 seconds.
Repeat this cycle for 5 minutes to feel the effects.
Getting worked up? Use 5-5 breathing
While our natural tendency is to breathe at a rate of two or three seconds per minute, the 5-5 breath is a controlled and conscious breathing practice designed to slow down our breathing to 4 seconds, then 5 seconds, then 6 seconds ... working up to 10 secs with practice.
The 5-5 breath is ideal for an overall sense of calm and can be practiced throughout the day.
How to do it:
To start, focus on the natural rhythm of your breath to obtain a baseline length of each inhale and exhale. Then for 1 minute, breathe in for 4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds. Then repeat for 5 seconds, then repeat for 6 seconds, and if you want to, gradually expand to 10 seconds. Start with 5 minutes total and work your way up over time to 20 minutes.
These three breathing techniques are simple and effective and I believe they deserve to be included in your self-care practices, which I often refer to as your self-care tool-kit. They can be practiced at any time, anywhere and at no cost. Remember, your breath is your inherent healer and guide inside of you.
To be aware of your breathing is to be aware of you.
You are the #1 person in your life. When you are tuned into your breath, you are present in the moment. You are not in the past, nor are you in the future. You are in the space where life is created. You are right here. Right now. You're in the space where magic happens.
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In support of becoming the best you, you can be,
Certified Body Code Practitioner