by Cynthia Perkins, M.Ed ©
Do you ever stop and think what an amazing thing our breath is? Probably not. Most of us never give it a thought. It is something we take for granted. Rarely do we stop and think about how it, along with our souls is our life force and without it we would not be alive. Breathing is so simple and intrinsic to our life that we rarely think about it and most of us are unaware that we breathe improperly.
We are taught at an early age to suck in our stomachs and puff out our chests. This is in complete contradiction to proper breathing. To breathe properly, when you inhale your abdomen should protrude not your chest. When you exhale, your abdomen should flatten. When you breathe in you should breathe completely until the lungs are full and when you exhale it should be until all air is expelled. You should breathe deeply and completely. Breathing through your nose keeps the charge of energy in check, increasing control and slowing your metabolism. Breathing through your mouth increases the charge of energy and facilitates the discharge of emotions. You may have noticed that when you are upset that you breathe heavy sighs out through your mouth. This is not bad during those times, because it helps expel the emotions, but it isn’t a state you want to remain in consistently.
By breathing through your nose properly as described above you can use your breath to help relieve pain, boost energy, clarify and quiet the mind, relieve tension, lesson the intensity of symptoms, relax, calm and soothe the body and mind, quiet the soul and help you be more spiritually connected. You can also oxygenate your bodies and help your body to detoxify better and boost the immune system.
When you don’t breathe properly your body does not receive adequate amounts of oxygen. This depletes your energy, allows toxins to accumulate, weakens your immune system, clouds your head and disconnects you from your spirituality.
Deep breathing is the single most effective, beneficial technique we can use to relieve pain and stress and to relax. It is also non-toxic and costs us nothing. Below is an exercise that I use on a regular basis.
Lie down somewhere comfortable and close your eyes. You can have some relaxing soothing music playing in the background if you prefer or complete silence. Make yourself completely comfortable with pillows or whatever and your arms at your sides. Loosen any tight clothing.
Take a very deep breath in (using the proper breathing technique above) then exhale. Do this several times until you begin to feel your body relax a little. Try not to think about anything. Focus your mind completely on your breath. Flowing in and out with each breath. Now take another deep breath, and beginning with the top of your head guide your breath to that area and using your minds eye as you exhale, direct the breath into your head. With the exhale, envision that the breath is penetrating into that area of the body you are focusing on. Take another deep breath and this time using your minds eye guide the breath into your face muscles, then another deep breath into your jaw and eye muscles. You should begin to feel little tingles as tension and pain melt away. If tension is persistent and doesn’t loosen, then try tightening the area by clenching and then releasing and then breathe into the area again. It may take several attempts if this is new for you. As you practice it more frequently, it will become easier and quicker to attain. After they begin to relax then do several deep breaths into the whole head, face area and enjoy the sensation.
Now move to your shoulders and chest. Take a deep breath and on exhale breathe into your shoulders and then another deep breath and into the chest. After several deep breaths guided to these areas imagine the breath is now radiating down the arms and into the fingers as you breathe in deeply and exhale into the chest.
Then move to your abdomen and hips and again guide your deep breath on exhales into each of them. As they begin to relax, imagine the breath is now radiating down the legs and into the feet and toes as it flows into the abdomen. Again, if any particular area is resisting, then tense it up by clenching and release it and breathe into it again until it releases.
Now the whole body should be relaxed and pain minimized; your mind should be calmer and you feel peaceful. Stay lying in this position for a while and continue to breathe deep breaths and guiding them into the center of your body and radiating out to each and every part, enjoying the sensation of complete relaxation. You may get up when you feel ready.
I have found this technique to work best when I can close my eyes, but it is also very helpful at other times. After you become more skilled at it, you will be able to use it while your are driving, at the computer, in a conversation or wherever you may be, but of course you can’t close your eyes at those times.
All three techniques can be used individually as needed throughout your day during times of pain, stress or disharmony. If you are experiencing a headache, migraine, or pain in any particular area of your body, you can use the exercise by guiding the breath into that particular area. This works great as a pain and stress reliever and will help you to be able to function better within the pain or other symptoms you may be experiencing.