Happy day to you!
Before we go any further and move into practices that will deepen the breath, I want to mention a brief note of caution. While we have all been breathing every day since birth, working with the breath in ways we aren’t used to may make some people feel dizzy or light headed. If at any time you feel dizzy or light headed, please sit or lie down and return to your own quiet breathing pattern until this sensation passes. Over time and with practice, your body will get used to a more full breath pattern.
This program is designed to provide you with the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of mindful breathing while utilizing very gentle and safe techniques. There may be specific individuals who would benefit from a slightly modified approach due to their unique history or conditions.
If you have any medical conditions, specifically conditions affecting your lung or heart function, please talk with your doctor before beginning the next part of this (or any) breathing program to determine if any modifications should be made for you.
My big question for you now is this… During your practice for the past few days, where did you feel your breath moving in your body? Where are you feeling your breath moving in your body right now? If you aren’t sure, allow your eyes to close and take five full breaths while being open to feeling the sensation of the breath moving through the body. If you still aren’t sure after trying the five breaths, that’s okay too.
Many of us only feel movement of the breath in the area of the upper chest and on the front of the body when we first start our breathing practice. This is called chest breathing and it is a very common pattern. It’s also really inefficient and can cause a lot of tension in the neck and upper shoulders. If you know you hold tension in this area of your body, it is very likely that you are doing a lot of chest breathing. Chest breathing can contribute to neck and upper shoulder tension and discomfort as the accessory (or helper) muscles used in breathing that are located in the neck have to work harder when we aren’t letting our diaphragm move fully.
Since we now know that chest breathing isn’t the best option for getting oxygen into our bodies, let’s talk about how we can begin to make use of more of our lung space rather than just that front, top portion. The first step in being able to use all of our lung space is to become aware of where it is. One way to think about all the lung space you have is that if there are ribs around it, there is lung tissue in it! The rib cage wraps from the back of the body at the spine, around the sides and joins together at the sternum – or breastbone – at the front of the body. There are some other organs protected by the rib cage, but the lungs do fill most of the space of the rib cage on ALL sides of the body. Imagine if we took full advantage of all of that lung space every time we took a breath in and out!
We’ll start with an awareness exercise where we focus on breathing on the front side of the body. Unless you are congested, let’s breathe in and out through the nose. If you are having difficulty breathing through your nose, please feel free to breathe through your mouth. Allow the breath to flow freely and smoothly in and out, with no pause between inhale and exhale.
Connect with your foundation – feeling your feet on the floor, your seat grounding if you’re sitting – then lengthen upward from that strong base.
When you take a breath in, visualize your breath traveling in and down through your nostrils, chest and abdomen, until it fills your pelvic bowl.
As you breathe out, visualize the breath traveling up and out through your abdomen and chest, then exiting through your nostrils.
When we breathe in, we allow our belly to gently soften and expand outward and downward.
When we breathe out, we gently draw our belly inward and upward to press out any stale air that may be lingering in the lower parts of our lungs.
While we breathe smoothly and fully this way, our neck and shoulders stay soft and relaxed.
If you feel ready to begin your practice now, set your timer – or press play to begin your guided Daily Breathe Easy practice (included with the Breathe Easy audio book – track 21). Allow yourself to continue to observe your breath for 15 minutes. Focus on the easy, gentle movement at your belly during your practice today. Notice any thoughts, sensations, or emotions that reveal themselves to you through this experience. Do not fight them or judge them. Simply notice what shows up and allow it to be. Keep connecting with the movement at your belly.
Maintain this connection to your breath and when you feel ready, gently blink your eyes open if you have closed them.
Notice how you feel after connecting with your breath. If you are using a journal during this process (which I highly recommend), record how you feel after your second 15 minute experience. Did this experience feel challenging? Did it feel easy? What did you notice? Did you notice any movement happening at your belly? Was your practice today different than yesterday? If so, in what way(s)? Remember to be kind and to give yourself the gift of grace. Tomorrow we will discuss more about why the belly moves while we breathe and the healthy action of a very important muscle for breathing – the diaphragm! If you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section! I’ll do my best to keep up!