Weekly Meditation 3: Better Breathing
The complexity of the human body never ceases to amaze me – especially when you think about all the processes that take place without our conscious effort like digestion, growth or cell regeneration. Breathing (for the most part) happens without much effort on our parts, but that also means that we aren’t always aware when we are doing it incorrectly.
You’re probably thinking what I thought when I first learned this – how could it be possible to breathe incorrectly when we’ve been doing it since birth? Have you ever watched a new born breathe? Their little bellies puff up, rising and fall rhythmically. As we grow older and face anxiety or stress, our body’s reaction is constrain or shallow the breath and we adjust to this way of breathing. Just observe a group of adults around, you’ll see shoulders and chests rising and falling instead of bellies. If you’re curious about science – check out this short video.
Try this: place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Take a deep breath through your nose and try to inhale all the air deep into your diaphragm filling your belly from the bottom and letting the excess expand the upper parts of your ribs, Try to keep the hand on your chest still. As you exhale through the nose, contract your belly, pushing all the air out.
When we breathe like this, we’re using our entire lung capacity to get significantly more oxygen into the bloodstream and eliminating carbon dioxide at a faster rate. With a little practice, your body can breathe like this in autopilot and the benefits of something so simple include reduced anxiety, lower or stabilized blood pressure, more efficient release of toxins and tension release.
Breathing is also a key part of relaxation. For this week’s mediation tip, we’re going to use the breath to help us relax and also focus.
Here’s what to do: Take a comfortable seated position – something you can settle into that won’t have you fidgeting or uncomfortable. Set a timer. Close your eyes and take several very deep breaths from the belly, exhaling completely. Then inhale through the nose for a count of four, holding for one, and exhaling through the nose for a count of four. Keep doing this, mentally counting to keep focused (Inhale – one, two, three, four, hold. Exhale, one two, three, four. Repeat.) If you feel like you have a good pace, you can shift your attention to the air traveling through our nose all the way to the deepest part of your belly and back up again. If your mind wanders, try counting again.
Bonus point: why not add a minute or two to your time commitment from last week?
Let us know how you’re doing, and don’t forget to come back next week for anther small step towards building a strong meditation practice.