As a flute player, I learned the importance of proper breathing from an early age. In fact, it was suggested that I take up the instrument to help my childhood asthma. It’s funny, but we give little thought to the breathing process, which happens automatically. But everything from our posture, mental state and environment can influence how well we are breathing at any given time.
Breathing is fundamental to life – oxygen is everything!
Learning to breathe correctly will contribute to greater available energy, calm your nervous system, help strengthen your immunity and nourish internal organs. Breathing also provides a gateway, through focus and relaxation, which allows deepening meditations and healing.
As you may know, breathing is an integral part of yoga and meditation practices. If pressed to describe breathing, you might say it is the body’s “in” and “out” flow of air. Anatomically speaking, there is a balance between breathing pressures which can be disrupted by stress and fatigue.
Learning to focus on your breath can reduce the effects of outside influences on your health and restore equilibrium to the inhale and the exhale, making it a smooth process that brings clarity and comfort. There is actually a transition point in breathing, when the “in” breath becomes an “out” breath. Here are some things to think about and try:
1. The best way to allow your lungs to draw in more air is to first exhale and empty them! When all of the air has been expelled from the lungs, they naturally and easily draw in a full fresh breath.
2. While breathing moves air in and out of your body, respiration involves the exchange of gases in the lungs. Imagine this exchange as inhalations bring fresh oxygen, and exhalations expel carbon dioxide
3. Pay attention to good posture! Without it your rib cage won’t fully expand when you inhale, and your exhale will be constricted.
Try this exercise of counting your breaths to experience the transition point between the “in” and “out” breath as well as to develop focus and relaxation:
Sit comfortably with your spine straight. Incline your head slightly forward, close your eyes, and begin with a few deep breaths. Now, relax and allow your breath to come naturally. Notice as it slows and becomes more quiet. Don’t force it, just notice and allow it to be what it is.
Now, you will be counting your exhalations in a cycle of five breaths. Counting the exhalations helps you to slightly increase the length of exhalation and amount of air being expelled. This will naturally allow you to draw in more fresh air and relax the body and mind:
On your first exhalation, count “one”. On the second exhalation, count “two,” and so on up to five. After you reach five, begin again with “one.”
This technique is simple but it takes focus! If you find yourself counting beyond five, your attention has strayed. Just as with playing an instrument, it takes practice and patience, but the benefits can be beautiful music indeed!