When did I first realize that I was a shallow breather? I was in my 20’s, still living in New York. Noticing my tense body I thought, "Wow, if I continue to tighten my stomach muscles like this and hardly take any air in when I breathe...This is going to catch up to me."
It was the early '90s when I first started to browse the web. Trying to help myself with health issues, I stumbled upon various websites where I learned about the fight or flight syndrome, and how I wasn't the only one in it. When you're in flight or flight, your muscles are tensed, your internal organs' blood circulation is decreased (hello digestive problems), and your breathing is shallow. Not a good recipe for self-healing.
Your breath is affected by your emotions. But what I didn't realize is that your emotions are affected by how you breathe. Luckily, you can learn how to breathe well. It takes some practice but it can be done. I learned by listening to 8-12 minutes of Perfect Breath on my ipod 1-2 times a day. Basically you slowly exhale fully (try it now), and then take a long slow inhale while visualizing air coming in through your nose, down into your belly....and then you slowly exhale through the nose. That's one way to do it. It's a lovely feeling you get after a few minutes of this relaxation. You just know that this is how you're supposed to feel.
I am lucky to live near a beach so that I can walk barefoot and sometimes do deep breathing to the sounds of the surf. But even if you're in your office cubicle, you can plug in headphones and listen to a something like a Perfect Breath meditative track. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Doing this for even 5-10 minutes once or twice a day is so health-promoting that I cannot recommend it enough! And it's free!
Almost every time I meditate or do breathing I will have some sort of insight, like a tidbit to add to my website or an idea that I can apply to a work project. Which is nice because it makes my projects better.
Deep breathing techniques are very effective at helping with depression and anxiety and pain and fear and really anything you can think of. I believe that everyone could do with a bit more oxygen! Each and every day.
Perfect Breathing: Guided Breathing for Better Living audio collection delves deeper into how to develop the habit of breath awareness. Just 10 minutes a day of proper breathing can change you. I've learned that if I have better control of my breath, then I have better control over my ability to heal.
For example, mindful breathing has really helped me be calmer. If I'm in a conversation with someone and they start talking negatively (about sickness, or not having enough money etc.), and I feel myself tensing up, now I just see it as another opportunity to practice my breath. I inhale slowly and deeply to the slow count of 3, and exhale gently and completely to the count of 3. Breathwork practitioners Al Lee and Don Campbell call this Six Second Foundation Breathing. Soon I’ll post here a free downloadable Breathing PDF, that you can tape to your wall by your desk as a reminder!
Lee and Campbell write that we now know that 90% of the energy the body uses comes directly from the breath - only 10% comes from the food that we eat. This means that if you breathe correctly, you'll have more energy. And this is exactly what I've found. I like to pick one track and lie down and listen to it. You can also sit up straight in a chair, with your eyes closed. I find it amazing that, again, something so simple can be so powerful for healing. Not to mention free.