When was the last time you took a deep, invigorating breath?
In eastern traditions, breath is believed to be the bridge between life and consciousness. Basically, if we don’t breath correctly, we don’t experience life fully. It makes sense if you think about it. Oxygen is required to carry out many processes in the body from digestion to repair. If our intake is minimal, it’ll take longer to complete the various tasks causing stress on our bodily systems. Also, oxygen needs to be delivered via blood to our organs. If we’re not taking deep, fulfilling breaths our organs suffer in the long term.
How to breathe correctly.
Incorrect breathing is shallow and lifeless, limiting the intake to the chest. Ideally, breath should mimic life and vice-versa. If we’re living fully, we should be breathing fully. How do we do that?
Begin by imagining an empty glass. When poured into the glass, where will water touch first? The answer is the bottom. Now imagine yourself to be the empty glass and the water to be the air you breathe. When you breathe, oxygen should fill your lower lungs first so that your stomach protrudes. And that’s where people go wrong. Instead, air is restricted to the chest which means that more breaths need to be taken to satisfy the body’s oxygen requirements. Follow these steps to get it right:
Lie flat on the floor (no pillow) with your hands loosely beside you.
Inhale a light, long breath. Be aware of your breath. Say in your mind: “I’m breathing in.” Let it travel to your stomach first. Your stomach will rise. Your lungs will expand and your stomach will begin to deflate as a muscle called the diaphragm pushes down on it. Let it happen and be aware of it.
Exhale. Be aware of your breath. Say in your mind: “I’m breathing out.”
Though it may sound silly, it’s important that you speak in your mind when breathing. The key to mindfulness is complete and utter focus. Just by saying “I’m breathing in” in your mind prevents other thoughts from stealing your attention. Lying on the floor is great because it prevents you from making too much of an effort which can be dangerous for the lungs, especially if they’re weak from incorrect breathing patterns. The aim is to be able to inhale and exhale in equal measure, but that will only become possible with practice. When you inhale, count how long it takes. It may take five seconds. Now, extend that by two more seconds. It should roughly take you six to seven seconds to inhale lightly. You want to do the same when you exhale. This won’t happen overnight. Perhaps your inhalation is shorter than your exhale, or the other way round. Don’t worry. Regular practice will correct this. It may take months, so watch your breath when sitting, walking and working. Only practice for a maximum of twenty breaths in a single session. If you feel tired at each stage, stop. In time, your breath will be light, even and flowing, like a thin stream of water running through the sand.
Take note of the split-second silence before and after each inhalation. This silence has held the attention of yogi’s and practitioners of mediation throughout the ages. It’s a moment that symbolises death followed closely by a rebirth. Try it. Close your eyes, breathe deeply. Focus on the silence before you exhale. As you dwell there, that split-second will expand, filling you with a sensation of peace. This is a very powerful meditation technique that reminds us of the value of life. With each breath, each second, we come to know that our time on this planet is limited. So, when you feel down or your thoughts are scattered, look to your breath and remind yourself to live now before it’s too late.
Source: Day of Mindfulness (Available in Paperback and eBook on Amazon)