How we breathe is incredibly important to our health and wellbeing. But most of us breathe in a way that robs us of our power. In this article you will find out how and why we learnt to breathe in a damaging way. You will also be invited to learn a powerful breathing exercise that will leave you feeling deeply refreshed.
This is the first in a set of articles focused on how to improve your breathing, so you can feel more vibrant and alive and take charge of your internal states so you are not at the mercy of your emotions.
First let us look at the connection between breathing and emotions
The genesis of difficult emotions
Our emotions are a set of reactions in the body that happen in response to certain types of thought forms, or as a result of how we consciously process things that happen in our environment, or as a gut level automatic response to certain stimuli, like stepping in dog poop, for example. Whatever the stimuli and the subsequent sequence of internal events, we end up with a reaction in the body that our mind interprets as a feeling – sadness, anger, rage, revulsion, disgust, fear, excitement, guilt, embarrassment, shame and so on.
When we were very young the world must of seemed a tough and frustrating place; we constantly fell over as we tried to walk, were told “no” over and over again, we couldn’t express our wants and needs adequately, we didn’t get what we wanted straight away, had our toys taken away by other children, didn’t get food straight away when we felt hungry, mum sometimes abandoned us for minutes at a time to name but a few of a whole host frustrations. All these things caused challenging emotions to constantly swell up and overwhelm us. Thus as young children we were on a wild emotional roller-coaster ride; our internal landscape seemingly at the mercy of externalities we had no way of controlling.
How we learnt to unconsciously repress our emotions
One of the ways we learnt to flatten out the rollercoaster and protect ourselves from this barrage of difficult feelings was to tense our core muscles. That is, we found we could suppress that flood of feelings welling up in the centre of our bodies by tightening our chest and abdominal muscles; we literally clamped down on our emotions to keep strong feelings under wraps. The problem is that tight chest and abdominal muscles prevent the diaphragm from moving efficiently which causes us to breathe with shallow and inefficient breaths, using our shoulders to expand the chest cavity instead of our diaphragm.
Gratitude: the key to abundance
Over the years this restricted breathing pattern becomes habitual so when our body requires more oxygen we are forced to breathe more rapidly to compensate for the shallow breathing. This can stimulate an increased heart rate and tension in the neck and shoulder muscles, which in turn triggers the body’s stress response; also known as the fight or flight response. When our stress response is continually activated it will eventually lead to anxiety and stress-related conditions such as hypertension, headaches, and depression. Tension and stress also drain our energy resulting in feelings of fatigue and lethargy. A negative feedback loop can kick in where feelings of fatigue, lowness and stress interact and amplify each other.
It is important that we become more aware of how we breath and relearn what we naturally knew how to do as babies: breathing with our diaphragms.
The power of the breath – exercise # 1
This exercise will deeply relax and refresh you. By doing it you will also become aware of how tightly linked your inner state and how you breathe are linked.
4 – 7 – 8 breath meditation
This exercise is simple but effective. However, the more feeling you can generate the bigger the warm glow you will be left with. What you are doing here is helping set up and train new neural pathways that will generate a feeling of Gratitude that runs on automatic piolet.
The best way to do this exercise is to read the instructions carefully and then do the exercise in your own time.
- On a scale of 1 to 10 rate your level of stress where 1 is totally Zen and chilled out and 10 is so stressed and depressed that you want to scream and break something.
- First sit with your back straight and chin slightly tucked in and your belly slightly pushed out so the top of your pelvis is cocked forward. Your feet should be in front of you about shoulder width apart and bent at the knee so that your upper and lower legs form a right angle. Place your hands in your lap or resting on each leg and close your eyes.
- Think of your feet and take a slow even full breath through your nose to a count of 4. Imagine that the breath is going into your feet. Hold for a count of 7. Breathe out of your mouth for a count of 8
- Repeat step 3 working your way up your body: breathe into your lower leg muscles, your upper leg muscles, your butt muscles, your lower belly, your lower back muscles, your chest, your upper back muscles, your shoulders, your arms, your hands, your neck, your face and your scalp.
- Finnish up by taking a few breath cycles with your awareness focused on the ton of your head.
- On the 1 to 10 scale rate your level of stress, where 1 is totally Zen and chilled out and 10 is so stressed and depressed you want to scream and break something.
- Note if your level of stress has changed or not.
As you do this exercise you might experiment with imagining that you are breathing in a powerful cleansing light and breathing out stress and negativity.
Daily focusAs you go through your day regularly stop what you are doing and take some deep even
As you go through your day regularly stop what you are doing and take some deep even breathes.
You could perhaps set the timer on your phone to ½ hour blocks. When the time is up take 5 -10 deep even breaths and then carry on doing whatever it is you were doing.
Note what impact this has on your inner state.
- 1.How we learnt to breath in a way that creates more stress and pain
- 2.How breathing correctly can crush the devastating effects of toxic thoughts
- 3.20 scientifically proven health benefits of diaphragmatic breathing
- 4.How to breathe with your diaphragm and get your energy back.