The Art of Breathing
The art of breathing is to take a slow, full, centering breath
While the concept of breathing is simple – everyone does it – doing it right is something else entirely. When you master the art of breathing, you find an inner peace and the ability to breath in the way that your body was meant to do so, and that maximizes health by properly oxygenating your cells and organs.
There are numerous benefits to changing your breathing. Teresa Mullan Frease, vice president of operations for the Fit-150 program in Austin, Texas, said, “Breathing techniques such as those found in Qi Gong or Fit-150 can help bring oxygen in to the blood, clear toxins and energize the body. There are even specialized Qi Gong breathing exercises that are designed to remove fat from the internal organs.” (Qi Gong is an ancient Chinese health care system.)
Proper breathing can also affect your mood. “It can be difficult to break up a negative train of thought or emotional pattern. It's can be like a broken record, where we play the same story line over and over. By changing the rhythm of breathing, we can shift the emotions and energy that cause us to stay stuck in an undesirable pattern. For example, for someone who is lethargic or depressed, it helps to practice energizing breathing exercises. For someone who is stressed or
anxious, it helps to practices calming breathing exercises,” said Frances Arnold, RDN, CD, CLT, ERYT and integrative registered dietician and yoga instructor.
Breathing exercises can calm the mind and soothe the soul by creating a state of calmness, Frease explained.
Frease offered tips on how someone can improve their breathing. She said, “It's good to have a general awareness of breathing more into the diaphragm rather than shallow breathing from the rib cage and clavicles. It takes about three times as many breaths in to the chest in order to get the same amount of air in to the lungs as we can from a single diaphragmatic breath. However, we can also do breathing techniques that involve breathing directly in to the lungs that are designed to strengthen the lungs and lung capacity.”
Age impacts our ability to breath deeply. “As we get older, the lung capacity gets smaller. By the time we are 70, our lung capacity is typically only 40 percent of the capacity we had when we were 30. Most of the time, we use only about 40 percent of our lung capacity,” she said.
She offered this exercise to help reverse the degeneration of the lungs by strengthening the lungs and their capacity:
- Stand. Inhale naturally and imagine the chest is full and the lungs fill up the chest cavity.
- As you breathe in and out, feel the lungs get bigger and smaller. Feel that they are very elastic and very flexible.
- Now, take a full inhale deeply into the lungs and hold for several seconds.
- Then exhale more slowly than the inhale, empty the lungs, and hold for several seconds.
- When walking, take a full inhale, walk five steps and exhale for at least six or seven steps to empty the lungs, exhaling more slowly than the inhale.
Also try mini meditation sessions throughout the day, said Nina Smiley, Ph.D., co-author of The Three Minute Meditator.
“There's a lot of opportunity for stress in daily life. Mini-meditations, even micro-meditations, are instant interventions that tell mind and body to relax simply by focusing on breathing. Taking a few minutes, or even moments, to do so can make a huge difference in a short amount of time. Many people think you have to spend 15-20 minutes, eyes closed and in total quiet, to gain the benefits of meditation. Not true,” Smiley said.
You don't have to close your eyes to meditate. Smiley said, “Simply take three slow, relaxed breaths as you breathe from your center and let thoughts go. Focus on silently saying, ‘In... Out...’ as you breathe. Clearing your mind is the key to mind/body relaxation.”
Smiley said, “You can use this technique during the course of each day to relax and-here's some great news-the effect is cumulative. Moments spent mindfully breathing and centering within will change your life. It's as simple as that.”
There are online courses on the art of breathing, said Arnold. “What transformed my life was taking a course in the Art of Breathing by the Art of Living Foundation. This provided me with a carefully designed breathing practice that would benefit me, no matter how I am feeling. I practice it daily, and so do millions of people around the world,” she said.
Remember, breathing mindfully can truly change your life. Demanding jobs, family needs, hectic lives and crazy schedules take their toll. Stress is a modern day epidemic and often we forget to stop and breathe deeply.