The Power of Breath

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Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.
Conscious breathing is my anchor. ~Thích Nhất Hạnh


There were tubes coming out of his chest. He was in pain. Intense pain.

They had removed a lobe of his lung. Cancer. They got it all. Or so they thought.

Recovery took some time. The apparatus (spirometer) to build up lung capacity was given to him. Breath deeply. Hold. Exhale.

I worked with him several times a day breathing with the apparatus chuckling to myself: how many years did I suggest he do yoga and pranayam for his lungs? He would just roll his eyes when I made the suggestion.

And yet here he was listening to me now as we did deep breathing exercises. It helped.

Colour came back to his face. Vibrancy. Life.

The Practice

When you do yoga and meditation, breathing becomes central to your practice. When you cultivate deep mindfulness techniques in your practice, you become attuned to your breath and emotional state.

There is a physiological response to our emotional states. Breath and our ability to control it – it’s depth, steadiness – allows us to manage our physiological response.

And with this newfound control, the quote “When you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace” makes much more sense.

Where do you breathe? 

Sit comfortably with your eyes closed for a moment. Can you take your attention to your breath? Where do you feel the inhale in your body? Is it in your throat? Your collar bone? Your sternum? Your belly? Don’t try to change the breath but notice where it is.

For many of us, we breathe very shallow – where it hits our collarbone or top of our chest. This is especially true when we are stressed or under intense anxiety.

Bringing your hand to your diaphragm, underneath the bottom of your ribs, and hold it there for a few breaths. As you bring attention to your hand, does it change the depth of our breath? Can you breathe into your hand? Take a few conscious breaths here.

Now notice how that feels in your body? Are you more relaxed as a result?

Typically this act alone can significantly alter our emotional state. It creates a space between what stimulus and response. It creates a moment where we can get clarity of mind to act not react.

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