I think I can reasonably well assume that you are breathing right now. But when was the last time you checked?
Ok, that may be a redundant question. We don’t need to check that we are breathing. It is pretty obvious that we will know if we have problems with our breathing. As a lifelong asthmatic I know all too well what this feels like. Trust me, if you haven’t experienced that inability to breathe, you certainly know it when it happens.
Our bodies breathe for us. We don’t need to do it consciously. The innate survival instinct we are all born with will not allow us to stop breathing for long, until it is our time to stop for good.
But how many times have you connected to your breath, and been truly aware that you are breathing?
And by opposition, how many times have you suddenly had to take a sudden breath in as your body seemed to have forgotten to breathe? Or you become stressed and anxious and need to be reminded by a loved one to breathe?
The link between the breath and the emotions is a powerful one, and one that is the predominant theme of this whole site. I have discovered through my own experiences, many of which I will share with you as we journey together through these pages, that we can literally breathe our stress away when we learn to connect to our breath. Your breath keeps you alive, but it can do so much more than that.
As I discovered when I stepped into the sanctuary offered to me by Yoga teacher training in 2014, when you learn to breathe properly and to develop a connection to your breath, it can create a whole new way of being. Your breath can offer you space to find wisdom and insights you didn’t know you had. It can give you space to find your truth. Your breath can provide you with relaxation and wellbeing you didn’t know was possible, clarity of thought and focus that might have eluded you. It can be your biggest resource in the fight against the stress of daily life in the 21st century. And goodness knows most of us need that. The 21st Century is, at the time of writing, an increasingly challenging and stressful time to be alive!
How can you be sure you’re breathing?
Developing that conscious awareness of your breath takes practice, but the benefits are so worth the effort. When you are able to take control of, and become aware of, your breath, you can take control of your life. You can use this to manage your emotional response, notice the signals your body is giving you about what it needs, manage energy, live more in the present moment and more. It really is worth the effort to learn and practice this stuff.
Your journey to change and improve anything begins with awareness of it.
We tend to only notice our breath when something goes wrong with it and we are struggling to breathe. We rarely notice the times when our breath is working fine and all is well.
So this is where we start. As you are reading this, take your attention to your breath and notice what it is like. Where are you breathing, through your nose or your mouth? If you are breathing through your mouth, are you able to breathe through your nose? If not, why not? Is your nose blocked? Are your breaths fast or slow? Is each breath shallow or deep? Are you breathing with even length breaths, or are they erratic and uneven? As you continue to read, keep a mental eye on your breath, and merely observe what is happening. This isn’t a test to see if you are breathing ‘right’. At this point in time there is no right or wrong way to breathe, there is simply how you are breathing right now.
Are you noticing anything happening as you observe your breath? Often, when I ask people to simply watch their breath, they tell me that their breath naturally slows down with no effort from them. If this doesn’t happen it doesn’t matter, it is neither good nor bad, it just is as it is.
Awareness is a habit.
We have grown into the habit of unawareness. We can learn to develop awareness. This is the whole point of much of Yoga, to develop awareness of the mind, body, emotions, actions and spirit. I will elaborate on Awareness in a later post, it is a fascinating area for consideration.
For now, I invite you to begin to develop conscious awareness of your breath. Set a timer on your phone or watch, or establish certain points in the day.
Useful points to check your breath
- Before you get out of bed
- With your morning coffee
- When on your commute (red lights are VERY good for this practice, as are long traffic jams)
- Before you begin your working day
- At hourly intervals throughout the day
- At lunchtime/tea break time
- Before you get into your car at the end of work
- With the kids as you are putting them to bed
- Before you get into bed
These are just suggestions. I wouldn’t suggest you do all the above, and you might find other that work for you. Make it work for you. We struggle most to establish habits that are hard to integrate into our lives.
At these points, simply take your attention to your breath and observe what it is like. For extra bonus points, try and note down what you are doing, how your breath is, and how you are feeling at the time. You may start to notice patterns over time, for example, before I start work, my breath is always erratic and I feel anxious.
Once you have that information, and you embark on your journey of learning to breathe, you will be able to use the information and the new breathing skills to transform those moments.
Give yourself 5 minutes
Another way to increase awareness of the breath, is to spend dedicated time every day focusing on nothing but the breath. The practice of quiet sitting, with eyes closed and your awareness held on the breath, does many things for mental and physical wellbeing, including increasing focus, promoting relaxation, easing anxiety, stress and depression and much more. It also helps to deepen your connection to, and awareness of, your breath.
In the 10 day ‘5 Minute Breath’ challenge, I guide you to spend just 5 minutes each day with your breath. This challenge is designed to help you establish a daily practice that will give you mental space that will impact your whole day. In just 5 minutes, you can calm your mind, create clarity and focus, and gain powerful awareness of your breath.
When you register for the challenge, you will get a video practice, a printable journal, and daily emails from me to help you along your way.
Register below and give yourself the gift of the 5 Minute Breath