#BE15for15 – Day 12 – Mindful breathing can change our brains!
Mindful breathing can make a positive difference in our lives and our health by actually re-shaping our brains with regular practice. Mindful breathing enhances the quality of our lives by improving our ability to relate with kindness and compassion to ourselves and to others. It sharpens our ability to focus, learn, think, remember things and to regulate our emotions. Mindfulness increases our ability to empathize and to find perspective. These changes are due to measurable changes in specific areas of the brain that can occur in as little as eight weeks. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, is someone devoted to studying these changes. Research done by Lazar and her team shows that the brains of people who engage in meditation and mindfulness practices, like Breathe Easy, show growth in the posterior cingulate gyrus, the left hippocampus, the temporo-parietal junction and the pons. An area of the brain called the amygdala (which is associated with stress, fear, and anxiety) shrunk over that same eight-week period. This decrease in size of the amygdala was unsurprisingly correlated with a reduction in stress levels of the study participants. If you would like to read more about some of this exciting work, here is an article from the Harvard Gazette summarizing some of the work of Lazar and her team. The ability to change our brains in a measurable way seems like a pretty good reason to begin a daily mindful breathing practice now. Are you ready? Lets rock!
When you feel ready to begin your practice, set your timer – or press play to begin your guided Daily Breathe Easy practice (included with the Breathe Easy audio book). Allow yourself to continue to observe your breath for 15 minutes. Focus on the easy, gentle movement of your breath through your body 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 of your breath in your body.
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. Write down any observations that feel important to you about this awareness based experience with your breath in your journal now. Did this experience feel challenging? Did it feel easy? What did you notice? 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 explore a few different positions for practicing mindful breathing. 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!