Today, I would like to touch on the importance of mindful breathing.
I once heard a joke from one of my Yoga Instructors that really resonated. She commented that most of us are always on the go, always moving, always doing. But the key lies in Being for we are not Human Doings, we are Human Beings.
Mindfulness is about connecting with the present and bringing ourselves fully to each moment. In every single moment of this life, the breath is always happening in the here and now. When our mind is fixated on future anxieties or stressful events, the breath can guide us back to the present. When we are dwelling on former disappointments or past failures, the breath can lead us back to the here and now. Our breath reminds us that the past and the future are never actually happening. All there is, all we have, is this very moment. The breath is also a healthy indicator of our emotional state. When the mind is calm, the breath is gentle. When we feel anxious, stressed out or agitated, our breathing becomes shallow, irregular and rapid. Simply put, the tempo of our breath can alert us to the state of our thoughts and emotions. And with this type of self-awareness, we can identify the triggers that cause stress, and subsequently make informed choices for to help counteract this stress and cultivate feelings of inner-peace, joy, and fulfillment. Since the breath is always happening, we can tune into it at ANY time in ANY place.
Because many of us work on computers for 8+ hours per day, we tend to remain sedentary, sitting in a chair for over a third of the entire day. When we sit for extended periods of time and aren’t mindful of our breathing, it can result in shallow neck breathing, where rather than breathing in through the nose, we breathe in through the mouth and as a result, most of the air is sucked into the neck or chest, instead of the diaphragm and belly (proper way). This, in and of itself, can single-handedly trigger the fight-or-flight response that our body developed thousands of years ago to help protect us from Sabre Tooth Tigers and Mastodons. So while we are tying out a set of financial statements in a quiet audit room, our bodies might be simultaneously gearing up for a life-or-death foot race with a giant pre-historic beast!
Here is a quick breathing exercise that will help to decrease stress, decrease anxiety and connect you to the present moment:
When the day gets stressful, pause and go off into a quiet space. Sit down & keep your back straight (against a wall or chair). Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold at the top of your inhale for 2 seconds, then let the breath out for 4-8 seconds and hold at the bottom of your exhale for 4 seconds. Repeat this cycle between 10 and 20 times. If your mind wanders off (which it certainly will!), simply notice that it wandered off (without judgment), and calmly bring your focus back to your breath. Notice the cool air being drawn in through the nose, and the hot air being pushed out by the mouth.
Note: You do not need to be in a quiet space to perform this activity. Lucky for us, we are always breathing. Since we are constantly breathing, we can perform this exercise at any moment, anywhere and everywhere.
And so, in moments of boredom or distraction or in times of stress or anxiety, a few conscious breaths may be all we need to anchor our attention and bring us back home!
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”