Just breathe. Easier said than done, right? Yes, we breathe in order to live, however, conscious breath can lead to a much calmer, joyous life, regardless of our often stressful circumstances. I can’t. Yes you can! I would have said the same thing only a few years ago when I was struggling as a caregiver for my late husband. I sure wish I knew then how beneficial a solid breath practice would later come to be. If you have taken any therapeutic art classes with me lately, you’ll notice grounded breath is usually how we start and finish. I am hopeful with a little help and practice (yes, this takes practice) that you can find the best method for you and start today!
First off, why is breath so important? Obviously, we breathe to live but the way we breathe can have an impact on our quality of life. For example, when we are stressed and/or anxious, we may hold our breath tight within our chests or take short staggered breaths. This can cause an increase in blood oxygen levels, serotonin (happy hormone) levels to drop, poor sleep, and even panic -sending us into fight or flight mode. Cortisol is the main stress hormone and if it constantly stays high, serotonin will remain low. Deep, controlled breathing is proven to alleviate pain, boost energy, improve digestion, and make us HAPPY!!
A popular breath practice is called Pranayama which is an ancient practice of breath control. It is also used in Yoga but can be performed separately. Prana means life force or breath sustaining the body; Ayama means to extend or draw out. The two together mean breath extension and control. The goal of this particular breath practice is to connect your body and mind, while supplying rich oxygenation and psychological benefits. You control the time, duration and frequency of each breath, whatever feels right for you.
Example of a Pranayama Breath Practice
There are many types of Pranayama Breath Practices, so do your research and find one that works for you. The following is an easy way to get started. This breath practice can be done anywhere and at any time of day, especially if you begin to feel anxious or notice your breathing becoming short and more heightened.
Get grounded. Either sit upright with your feet flat on the floor or lay flat on your back on the ground. You can use a yoga mat or pillows for additional comfort for example. Do what makes you feel good.
Close your eyes or lower your gaze.
Let your shoulders fall back in order to open your heart space and allow for breath to begin to flow.
Feel free to use quiet instrumental meditation music or silence.
Breathe in (as deep as you can comfortably) count 1, 2, 3
Breathe out through your mouth, count 3, 2, 1
As you breathe in, imagine your breath is so deep that it is coming all the way from the tips of your toes all the way up and through the nose.
As you breathe out, blow out all the air and negative energy in a slow, controlled fashion.
Do this as many times as feels right for you. A good start is 10 and if you need more, keep going!
Stay in this position until you feel safe to come back to your physical space.
Remember, breath work like anything worthwhile takes practice! If this method did not resonate with you, there are so many others. Just remember the most important part is to be conscious of your breath, open your heart space, and just breathe.
Peace, Love, and Open Heart Spaces
Dana J. Georges
Project Life MBC
Therapeutic Art Facilitator