The Art and Science of Breath: Unlocking Wellness Through Conscious Breathing
Respiration is indeed the cornerstone of life, the rhythmic dance that sustains all bodily functions. Without it, the intricate machinery of our body grinds to a halt. The air we breathe is not merely oxygen; it's the life force that fuels our energy production. Breath, in essence, is life.
Oxygen, the quintessential nutrient, takes center stage in this symphony of existence. Yet, it's disheartening that many breathe shallowly, utilizing only a fraction of their lung capacity. The untapped potential lies in the conscious act of breathing, a practice that intertwines health, awareness, and a profound connection between body and mind.
Swami Rama, in his enlightening book "Path of Fire and Light," encapsulates the holistic benefits of conscious breathing: "Control of the breath leads to health, an increase in strength and energy, good complexion, increased vitality, the growth of knowledge, and the extension of the life span." Small adjustments in our daily ritual of breathing, performed over 20,000 times a day, can usher in a cascade of positive effects.
The Breathing Landscape: A Self-Check
To understand your breathing pattern, place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Inhale deeply several times and observe which hand moves the most. Most people, inadvertently, use chest muscles for breathing, forgetting the natural diaphragmatic breath they were born with.
Infants and small children naturally engage their diaphragms for breathing. Unfortunately, many of us transition to chest breathing as we grow, a less efficient method that can lead to tension and anxiety. The reciprocal relationship between breath and mind makes chest breathing synonymous with the fight or flight response.
Moreover, chest breathing can influence body image perceptions. Diaphragmatic breathing, which naturally expands the abdomen, might not align with societal expectations. Tensions build, limiting diaphragmatic mobility and fostering reliance on chest breathing. This can result in chronic muscle tension in the chest and abdomen.
Efficiency in Breathing: Diaphragmatic vs. Chest
Efficient breathing is not just about oxygen exchange; it's a dance that the heart and lungs choreograph. Diaphragmatic breathing, especially in the upright position, is remarkably efficient. It aids in thorough blood/gas mixing, reducing the workload on the cardiovascular system.
Research suggests that diaphragmatic breathing, by increasing suction pressure in the thoracic cavity, enhances venous return of blood, reducing the load on the heart and improving circulatory function. Conditions like high blood pressure of unknown origin respond favorably to a daily regimen of diaphragmatic breathing.
Conscious Breath: A Gateway to Self-Awareness
Turning your breath into a conscious habit awakens a heightened awareness of your body's signals. It fosters better feedback loops for understanding dietary needs, the benefits of physical activity, and an increased awareness of emotional states and inner self-talk.
Why Breathwork Matters:
Stress Reduction: In a world characterized by constant stressors, breathwork provides a natural and accessible way to activate the body's relaxation response, mitigating the harmful effects of chronic stress.
Improved Mental Clarity: Conscious breathing techniques can enhance focus, concentration, and cognitive function. This makes breathwork a valuable practice for those seeking mental clarity and heightened awareness.
Emotional Regulation: The breath serves as a bridge between the body and the mind. By mindfully regulating your breath, you can influence emotional states, promoting calmness, and reducing feelings of anxiety or agitation.
Enhanced Physical Performance: Athletes and fitness enthusiasts incorporate breathwork to optimize performance, increase endurance, and promote efficient recovery.
Immune System Support: Deep, diaphragmatic breathing has been linked to improvements in immune function, bolstering the body's ability to ward off illness.
Here are exercises to bring awareness to your breath and body:
Diaphragmatic Breathing (Deep Belly Breaths):
- Find a comfortable seated position.
- Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen to expand.
- Exhale fully through your mouth, contracting your abdominal muscles.
- Repeat for several cycles.
Box Breathing (Square Breathing):
- Inhale for a count of four.
- Hold the breath for a count of four.
- Exhale for a count of four.
- Pause for a count of four.
- Repeat for several rounds.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana):
- Sit comfortably with your spine straight.
- Use your right thumb to close your right nostril.
- Inhale through your left nostril.
- Close your left nostril with your right ring finger.
- Exhale through your right nostril.
- Inhale through your right nostril.
- Close your right nostril.
- Exhale through your left nostril.
- Repeat for several cycles.
- Find a quiet space to sit or lie down.
- Focus your attention on the sensation of your breath.
- Observe the natural rhythm of your breath without attempting to control it.
- If your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to your breath.
- Lie on your back, placing hands on your abdomen.
- Inhale slowly through your nose, expanding the belly.
- Exhale through your mouth, pulling the navel in and up.
- Feel your inner organs getting a massage, promoting peristalsis and oxygen exchange.
As you become comfortable with these exercises, aim for 200 conscious breaths a day, gradually increasing to 500 or even 1,000. The more you integrate conscious breathing into your daily routine, the more it becomes an unconscious, natural act.
This is a simple breath exercise with an essential oil which Dr. Joleene Anderson shares with us from our FREE TRANSCEND & TRANSFORM 28 Days to Renew, Revitalize, and Realign Journey
In conclusion, the breath is a silent orchestrator of well-being. It guides us to a space where physical, mental, and emotional harmony converge. So, step into the world of conscious breath, explore its various forms, and let the rhythmic cadence of your breath guide you to a state of profound well-being.
- "Conscious Breathing" by Gay Hendricks, Ph.D.
- "Science of Breath" by Swami Rama, Rudolph Ballentine, M.D., and Alan Hymes, M.D.
Discover the wonders of essential oil diffusing in our latest blog post. Essential oils are concentrated extracts from plants that offer a range of therapeutic benefits. Diffusing these oils allows their aromatic compounds to be inhaled, promoting physical and mental wellness. There are different types of diffusers available, from ultrasonic diffusers that disperse a fine mist of water and oils to nebulizing diffusers that directly release pure essential oil into the air. The benefits of diffusing go beyond pleasant scents, with potential advantages such as stress reduction, improved sleep, enhanced focus and concentration, respiratory support, and mood elevation. To make the most of diffusing, choose high-quality oils, personalize your blend, dilute mindfully, consider your environment, and maintain your diffuser regularly. Let the symphony of scents guide you on a journey of relaxation, focus, and rejuvenation.Read more...
What do you think of when you hear the word “self-love?”
Do you think of someone who is selfish, self-centered or egotistical?
Or do you imagine someone who is healthy, vibrant, wise?
“Often, we are reluctant to promote self-love mostly because we confuse it with selfishness. Since we are humans, we ought to have a healthy love for ourselves; it is from this fount that love flows out to others.” ~ Mason Olds
As I continue to travel around our sun, I have come to realize that love truly does emanate from within. When we feel love for another or a situation or a place, that love is a reflection of the love we carry within. We have opened to it, releasing it thus allowing for its reflection.
Unfortunately, we have attached conditions to love:
if you do ____________then you will receive love.
if you have __________ then you will be loved by others.
Our educational system trains us that when we do something well we will be recognized and rewarded. If we don’t do well, we are less than.
Our society idolizes singers, actors, politicians who “do important things” and are therefore “loved.” What you do seems to determine if you are worthy of love.
Is this true?
What is love?
… being tucked in with a kiss every night.
… when actions speak louder than words.
.. happily doing the chores so she can study at evening class.
… making your own sunshine.
These images and notes regarding the little things and times when we feel love are so simple and so deep. Love doesn’t take an earthquake, just a simple gaze, thought or action freely given from an open heart.
How do we keep our hearts open?
Start with the practicing the little things, such as:
- Find the joy in simply opening your eyes in the morning.
- Relax around the driver in front of you – whatever they do… leaving their blinker on, going too slow.
- Embrace the weather – sun, rain, wind or snow.
As we realize these “things” are not ours to control we can mindfully create a practice and training to remain open with all the little things right in front of us each day. As we practice on the little things we create a natural set point of being open. Therefore, this is where we naturally feel into when the big things occur.
The two-year anniversary of my son’s death at the hands of a drunk driver is approaching. Because I have made it my practice to relax and learn to love what is, I can honestly share that throughout processing this ordeal and the subsequent court case, I have remained open. Open to the love I hold within for my beloved son. Open to accepting our new reality. Open to the capricious court proceedings. Open to being held by others.
When anger and injustice wanted to rear their heads, I could feel that they could close my heart. If knew if I closed my heart I would be disconnected from the beauty, love and joy of what was, what is and what will be. This love comes from within me and if I shut it off, I would only be harming me. I was hurt enough, so I choose to remain open and in the flow of love.
I am the source of my love. The love I give and the love I receive.
I have learned that grief is another facet of love. The deeper you love someone or something, the deeper you will grieve. And both are beautiful and necessary.
Do you desire to feel love?
Start within, with the little things. Build your practice to create your setpoint of an open heart and you will have the skills to navigate your experiences remaining open.
Love comes from within and is reflected back to you by the people and events around you. Polish your inner mirror and reflect the beauty, love and joy you hold within.
I share tools for this practice to guide you towards the inner set point of love you desire here.
It does help to have tools and a community in which you can simply show up as you are – without judgment and are seen, heard and held yet not fixed. The fixing of you is only for you, your work, inner work.
As you learn to love yourself unconditionally, you will see the world around you with an open heart and deeply know that self-love is true love.
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Here is a question I best most of you have never pondered…
What is your most intimate skin care product?
Keep in mind, our skin absorbs much that comes into contact. Test this out by having someone rub a clove a garlic on the bottom of your foot. See how long it takes until you taste that garlic in your mouth?
So what has the most contact with our skin for the longest amount of time?
Your laundry detergent.
Think about it.
Most of the day you are in your clothing which is in contact with your skin. At night no matter what you wear to bed, your sheets are touching you all night long. Short of the time we are in the shower, we are in contact with our laundry detergent almost all day long.
When you purchase your laundry detergent did you take this concept into account?
Or do you simple purchase something inexpensive for which you have a coupon?
Perhaps now you might see why the organic, environmentally safe detergents may be something to bring into your home.
Did you ever wonder why they make special laundry detergents just for babies?
If your everyday laundry detergent isn’t safe for a baby, perhaps it isn’t safe for you.
I did an interesting experiment a few years ago with laundry detergents. I had three 8-ounce glass jars which I filled with water and put into each ½ tsp of Tide, Bio clean and Norwex UPP powders. I shook them up to see how much solid matter was left behind with each. Often cheap brand of detergents contains fillers whose sole job is to take up space and beat your clothing clean. It also breaks down your fabrics reducing the life of your garments. This was an eye-opening experiment.
But wait there’s more.
I left these jars sit for at least a year. Honestly I had saved them for show and tell and then they were forgotten in a corner. When I went to empty the jars another story was told. The jar with the Tide had a cloudy film covering the inside. This film was stubborn and would not be removed with scrubbing, but took many long soaks with vinegar and more to finally be removed.
Think about it, this detergent is not only beating your wash with filler, but coating it in a film. What is in this film? This film is then in constant contact with your flesh. Many of these films hold synthetic fragrances. This is evidenced by those individuals whose detergent scents leap out and greet you before they do. Go in a public place, they are there. Sadly, often it is friends and family members too. If you cannot think of an individual whose detergent greets you, it just may be you.
Want to find a synthetic free laundry detergent which won’t beat your wash, offend your neighbors and is safe for your skin and that of a baby?
You may find ratings and more at the environmental working group www.ewg.org or you may try my favorite: Young Living Thieves Laundry Soap
When asked what does it smell like? my answer – it doesn’t. It simply leaves your clothing clean and the only material in contact with your flesh is the material on the label of the garment. (now what that material is, is another issue)
The small things we do regularly truly do make a difference over time. Think about your small actions.
What laundry detergent are you using? Let alone fabric softeners or dryer sheets? (again an issue for another time, but neither of these are necessary and both are simply adding a coating to your fabrics and machines)
How are your choices affecting you and your family?
Do they support or harm your well-being?
Perhaps making a change in your laundry detergent can be a small step towards your best health.
Since moving to Flagstaff, AZ, I have connected with people who follow the moon cycles, honor the Pagan rituals from which many religions started and simply connect more with the earth and nature. Nature has always held a special place in my soul. Growing this connection has truly fed my soul in countless ways.
Several years ago I followed the moon ritual from the Wild Women Project and the ritual at year’s end really made an impact on me. When I worked through the above process and came to step three, I had such a creative download. I strongly felt the call to create prayer flags for sharing my dreams and visions in the new year. This would definitely get my messages, dreams and visions out to the world on the winds.
I do see prayer flags hanging from homes around my neighborhood and they abound at the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park in Sedona where people not only hang purchased flags but also ones of their own creation – what a profound concept! Creating your own prayer flags.
I started with a small pile of articles of clothing which were my favorites but had holes in unsightly places. I was unable to part with them, yet they were unwearable. I choose to use these clothes to make my prayer flags and repurpose something special to me into something else special. If I cut from some of the edges, there would already be a finished seam to string the rope through for hanging, bonus!
I came across information on prayer flags offering the colors and their meanings as well as the facts about when you remove prayer flags they are traditionally burned. Granted my clothing didn’t meet the traditional colors fully, but somewhere I read that there are typically 10 flags, so I asked my family if they wanted to make a few flags too and we could hang all our visions together. With this in mind, my daughter brought a few articles of clothing to add some of the missing colors. I got out the permanent markers and we all created our visions and intentions for 2019.
Our aim was to have them completed and to hang them on New Year’s Day.
We had just created a family ritual! I shared this vision with a friend who jumped on board too, loving the idea.
She even added some good thoughts for the ritual, that we could remove the old flags on the winter solstice and ceremonially burn them and then use that time when we start to move into more light to create our new flags which will be hung on New Year’s Day.
Over the years we have experimented with different media for words and images on flags. Media used include:
- permanent markers
- acrylic paints
- stitching with colorful threads
- regular markers – these fade away as the year passes fully releasing your prayer
The first year I shared the creation of ten flags with my family, now I have no problem filling all ten with my own intentions for the coming year. Another great lesson learned is to release perfection of your creation and focus on the energy you give to your intention. As these flags will be subjected the elements all year long and eventually burned, allow yourself to simply take action without judgement of the results while expressing your intention. Errors or mistakes are simply judgement – there is always something learned from the action. I truly felt this when stitching my images as the threads would get out of hand and I had to simply trust and let go.
Our new prayer flag ritual —which I encourage you to try, adapting it to your own ideas—has manifested as follows:
- Save old clothing or sheets to create flags, or purchase fabric scraps. You may honor a lost loved one by using items of theirs.
- December 21st - Winter Solstice: Remove and burn past flags. Ceremonially review your past years intentions and how they unfolded (or not) and release them to the fire.
- Feel into your intents or wishes for the New Year and craft your new flags.
- January 1st:New Year’s Day or the first New moon of the year: Hang your new flags and spread your message all year long on the winds.
The winter solstice is just around the corner. If you don't have flags for this current year you may always write your intents on paper and release them in a ceremony during the solstice and create the space to feel envision your intentions for the coming year.
Here I will share my poem for 2019, which came out of this process:
Honor the whole, the broken and create anew
All is Beauty
All is Nature
All is Creation
All is You
As the new year approach us, I encourage you to develop your own personal rituals for intention-setting.
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