Well, it’s here! That activity packed month of the year associated with the celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other occasions around the globe. In my homecourt, time is traditionally spent decorating, shopping for gifts, attending holiday parties and religious celebrations, cooking holiday meals, and spending time with family.
That’s a lot of activity, and sometimes it is accompanied by the not so pleasant side effects of stress, anxiety, depression, burn out, and even illness due to the increased risk of contracting a virus via closer contact with others during indoor activities. Yuk! So, what can we do to help navigate the pitfalls of the season and better yet, to help us thrive throughout the remaining months of the year?
Let’s begin by sitting tall, then relax and take a deep breath in through the nostrils. Make sure the inbreath fills not only the lungs, but that it expands down into the belly. Hold for a count of four. Then, audibly release the breath through the mouth, dropping the shoulders and relaxing the muscles during the exhale. Doesn’t that feel good?
That is what I call a cleansing breath, and you can use it as a general reset or reframe any time, any place. This type of breath, or some version of it, is used regularly at the beginning of Hatha Yoga classes for that very purpose.
It is a means to release pesky thoughts from the mind, together with the resulting tension stored in the body, thus bringing the mind, body and spirit into the present moment. So simple, yet so beautiful and effective!
It has been estimated that, on average, a person at rest takes about 12 to 16 breaths per minute. This means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day and 8,409,600 breaths a year. At this rate, it is estimated that if we live to be 80, we will take about 672,786,000 breaths over our lifetime.
Unfortunately, many of us are not breathing in a manner that allows us to optimize each breath we take. Shallow breathing, also known as chest or thoracic breathing, is very common and engages the chest and intercostal muscles only. Deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing moves the inbreath on into the stomach as the diaphragm contracts.
Deep breathing is reported to have many benefits including:
Just sit with that for a minute. Without breath there is no life for humans. Yet many of us never stop to consider our breath since it’s an involuntary, automatic process, provided our bodies are functioning properly.
My journey learning about the breath began with a search for tools to help manage stress, anxiety and burnout. Read on and find out how you can improve your health and well-being, which is so important as we continue to navigate our sixties and beyond.
I invite you to learn more about the breath and various breathing techniques at the following resources:
Just for fun, the following are links to some of my favorite inspirational anthems that include reference to the breath. After all, music is like a breath of fresh air! Please comment on your favorite song or songs that pertain to the subject.
The most powerful tool for healing lies within you – your breath.—Deborah Davis
I leave you today with the beautiful quote above and I encourage you take it to heart as this year comes to a close and we begin our journeys into the New Year. Wishing many blessings to you and yours during this holiday season! And don’t forget, JUST BREATHE!
What are your experiences with breathing? Have you done any real breath work? Are there any particular breathing tools or methods that have been especially helpful to you?