Only a Breath Away

My friend Lou loves to remind me that “the mind masters the senses, but the breath masters the mind.” He then adds, “if you are conscious and control your breath.” When you stop to think about your breathing, which you probably rarely do, you’ll realize that the first thing you do in life is inhale, and the last thing you do in life is exhale. Talk about the breath of life!

Lou’s discussions about breathing and breath control opened memories from my childhood of how I played around with my breathing. My friends and I loved having “tea parties” at the bottom of the pool, an activity that required good breath control. My siblings and I played hide-and-seek in the house and I learned that when I got into my hiding place that if I held my breath for a moment I could slow my heart (and silence the loud pounding from the excitement of the chase), and then with a slow exhale I could slow my breathing — both benefits kept me more silent and thus more hidden.

On swim team, breath control was important for speed and efficiency. When I took singing lessons I learned to breathe down into my stomach, aka diaphragmatic or belly breathing, for better air control and thus singing control. That lead me to connect diaphragmatic breathing with more stamina while hiking. I also learned the discomfort of having the wind knocked out of me with a belly-flop at the pool.



Conscious Breathing

The importance of breathing runs through my life: yoga, pilgrimages, Lou’s comments, and meditation all play roles in reminding me to be conscious of my breathing. But, it’s not merely breathing that is important — it’s conscious breathing that’s vital. Breathing is an automatic body function that can, fortunately, be done without thought — or consciousness, for that matter. That’s a bare-minimum type of breath that essentially keeps you alive. But conscious breathing does much more for you.

Conscious breathing boosts your mood, controls pain, and increases your consciousness and energy. You can minimize your anxiety, fear, and stress with controlled breathing. The problem is that most people aren’t taught how to breathe properly, and aren’t taught how to tap into the parasympathetic system to keep the body calm and at peace.

Teaching friends and clients breathing techniques has helped them manage anxiety and to transform their fears and anxieties. Using conscious breath prior to and during eye surgery helped me avoid drugs for managing anxiety. Conscious breathing helps me get to sleep on those rare nights that sleep eludes me, and it helps my meditations be deeper. Then there are the energizing breaths I take when my energy is sagging to bring me back to full function.

Sitting reading with a friend one day, I noticed how fast he was breathing. I decided to match his pace. I learned that in order to attain his pace, I had to breathe very shallowly. Then I realized that I was starting to get angry, a mood I attributed to the fast, shallow breathing. To continue my experiment, I returned to a slow, deep breathing pattern and my mood became serene again. Fascinating!

Breathing Dynamics

Did you know that 2/3 of your gas exchange during a breath happens in the lower 1/3 of your lungs? When your posture is bad your lungs don’t have room to expand enough, and your diaphragm doesn’t have space to pull your lungs down so your breath can’t be as full as it needs to be for proper gas exchange. How’s your posture right now?

Fascinating MRI video showing the mechanism of human breathing. From the Biomedizinische NMR Forschungs GmbH (CC BY-SA 3.0), 16 September 2011

I mentioned that your diaphragm pulls your lungs down to take a breath. To make sure you understand all that I’m sharing right there, let me explain. To inhale and bring air into your lungs you need to create negative pressure in the lungs. That happens when your diaphragm, a muscle dividing your chest and abdominal cavities, pulls down by contracting making room for your lungs to expand and fill the space. When it relaxes, your lungs are pushed up so they deflate and air is pushed out.

Breathing Bonuses

Breathing isn’t just for keeping you alive. As I pointed out earlier, breath is handy in managing several aspects of your life. Mood, pain, consciousness, energy, anxiety, fear, and stress are all impacted by your breathing. And as there are different reasons to control your breath, there are different breaths you can consciously use to manage each of these specific issues.

The mind masters the senses, but the breath masters the mind. If you want to be in control of your mind, do yourself a favor and learn to master your breath. Make every breath count so your life counts.


Regain Your Life

Learning to breathe is your key to regaining your life. My friend Lou has an online course to teach you the correct way to breathe as well as different breaths for different needs. Conscious Breathing is the place to go to sign up. This is not an affiliate link, this is my service to my Transformation Community.

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