The Importance of Breathing! Breathe yourself to Health and Happiness
“..the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
I had never really understood the meaning of these famous lyrics until recently. I was watching a film the other day about Native American Indians and they mentioned how it is important to listen to the wind. They said that the answers they seek are found by listening to the wind. It is easy to gloss over these comments, phrases and lyrics but the truth behind them has now dawned on me.
As I see it, it all relates to breathing. Our answers come to us through our breath which comes from the air (and wind). And not just our answers………….for we may not know what the questions are! But our inspiration, our health, our ideas, our dreams, our energy, our intuition, our visions, our oxygen – in short, our life force energy!
I told someone the other day about my ideas to write a piece called “The Importance of Breathing” and they just laughed. Of course breathing is important – we’d die if we didn’t breathe. Yes. Good point. But have you ever really thought about that? I mean, really thought about it? After all, we can go weeks without food, days without water but very few minutes without breath. And our breath does so much more than just keep us alive. It feeds and nourishes our bodies, minds and souls – it brings us, or it IS, our Life Force Energy which in turn brings us our ideas, intuition, creativity, thoughts, feelings and ……..everything! Shouldn’t we, therefore, give it some respect and spend a little more time focussing on it and nurturing it?
We know that breathing affects our physical bodies. We associate someone panicking with taking short, shallow breaths and we encourage them to breathe slowly and more deeply. We associate a shock with a sudden gasp followed by the breath being held in an unnatural way. When we are fearful our hearts beat faster and our bodies want to breathe faster – in fact, there are many negative emotions associated with short, shallow breaths.
We also know that when we go to the seaside, it’s instinctive to take a large purposeful breath in and fill the lungs to enjoy the commonly recognised benefits of the sea air. We know that when we are relaxed and flop into our sofas at the end of a busy day we give an almost exaggerated sigh – in other words a deep, slow, meaningful breath out. We also know that Meditation and Yoga both practice slow, deep, purposeful breathing.
So we can see that slow, deep, deliberate breathing is healthy and good for our bodies (and minds and emotions) and short and shallow breaths are not good for our health or bodies or minds or emotions. If this evidence is all around us and we experience the positives and negatives of our breathing patterns on a daily basis, then why? oh why? do we not concentrate more on correcting and changing our breathing patterns to enjoy better health and happiness?
If breathing slowly and deeply can relieve a panic attack, calm a fearful person and relax the mind so easily then why, in this world of so much stress, do we not practice it more often. Breathing slowly, deeply and mindfully. I love it! It feels so good and makes me healthier and even happier!
Doesn’t everyone want to improve their health, reduce their stress and feel happier? Well, learning to breath properly – more mindfully – can do that for you. After all, many sportspeople learn new and different breathing patterns to enhance their physical performance – whether it be to stay underwater longer, build up confidence or to generate energy – they are in fact, empowering their physical bodies with their breath. Therefore, so can you. You can heal, relax and energise your body with something as simple as your breath.
If I asked you what you see with, you would probably say your eyes. What do you speak with? You’re now wanting to say “the mouth”, aren’t you? What do you think with? your brain? or your mind? Your brain is in your head but where is your mind? Where do your thoughts come from? Where do your words come from?
If I asked you to raise your hand in the air and then asked you how you managed to do that, you’ll probably say with the use of your muscles and again, you’d be partially correct but think about this…………….
Imagine two bodies lying side by side. One alive and full of life and the other one dead. Think about it for a moment. The dead body has a brain but cannot think. It has a heart but cannot feel. It has eyes but cannot see. It has muscles but cannot lift its arm. Where is the dead body’s mind?
If I asked you where you get your energy from you’ll probably say “food” which, I guess, to a certain extent is true but the dead man has the remains of his last meal in his stomach yet he has no energy.
Physically, the only difference between the two bodies is one is still breathing and the other one isn’t. But it’s more than that. One is still thinking, dreaming, inspiring, digesting, feeling, seeing, hearing, caring, loving……….being.
In fact, the only difference between the two bodies is one is breathing and the other one isn’t. Yet with that breath comes all our health, ideas, thoughts, intuition, dreams, love, joy, awareness, visions, consciousness, happiness and connection and for the scientists among you, our oxygen!!
The increased oxygen intake from slow, deep mindful breathing will help you detoxify your body’s cells. We know that cancer cells, for example, cannot survive in oxygenated environments so that’s just another bonus of breathing in such a way as to maximise your oxygen intake.
So ALL these things come to us in our breath. That’s why we call it the Life Force Energy. So if you want more health in your life, greater ideas, thoughts and intuition, more love and joy, heightened awareness, consciousness and connection as well as more happiness then breathe slowly, deeply and mindfully more often in any way you can making a point to improve the quality of the air you breathe as well. Through exercise, country walks, yoga, meditation or even just for 5 mins on waking and sleeping. It’s easy and you’ll notice the difference.
Pranayama is the name given to the Breathing Exercises in Yoga and there are a number of different techniques to be studied. However, I just want to mention the most common one – Ujjayi breathing. To adopt the technique correctly you should inhale and exhale more deeply than usual through your nose. On the exhale you should constrict the muscles in the back of your throat which will make a slightly raspy sound.
In my opinion, it is not only the sound that is important here but how deep down in the belly you take your breath. In today’s world when we take in a full lung breath, we tend to subconsciously restrict the flow of the life force energy coming in so we can push our chests out and hold our stomachs in. Take a full lung breath now as you read this and see what you subconsciously do. If your chest has risen and your abdomen has contracted then you, too are restricting the life force energy coming into your body. Maybe we are subconsciously avoiding our bellies from hanging out!! Let the belly hang free I say – it’s so much healthier that way!
Now relax your body, drop your shoulders, relax your tummy and take in a slow, deep, mindful breath without restricting it so your belly expands with the breath and then slowly feel it retracts as you exhale. Visualise the breath going all the way down your chest, past your diaphragm and into your belly and lower belly.
Once you are comfortable with this deeper belly breathing you can practice adding a conscious expansion to your heart, rib cage and diaphragm too. When you feel the belly has expanded to a comfortable limit, consciously expand your rib cage and diaphragm to allow even more breath (life) into your body. When comfortable with this practice you can begin to hold the breath for a few seconds after each full inhalation. Visualise the oxygen coming in and picking up all the carbon dioxide and other waste from every cell of your body as you slowly exhale it all out. Now visualise pure, love and healing light coming in with your breath, being sent to every cell of your body. Hold it a few seconds to enjoy the healing and expansion. As you very slowly exhale, visualise trapped emotions, limiting beliefs, toxins or anything else that no longer serves you leaving your body. Setting your intention in this way, using your breath and visualisation is how we can, quite literally, create our own healing.
So your challenge now is to incorporate some slow, meaningful breathing into your daily routine, preferably in fresh air, making sure to relax your belly and let it expand with each inhale. You will soon find that, the answer my friend, is blowing in the wind! Let me know how you get on.
Love and Blessings
Deborah Jane Sutton
Energy Healer, Mentor, Self-Healing Coach, Yoga teacher and Author of Heal yourself to Happiness and Heal your Soul