Take a deep breath, let it out. Take another deep breath. Let it out. How many hundreds of times have I done this, consciously? Breathing through anxiety. Breathing to relax. Breathing while meditating. Yoga breathing. Breathing through pain. Breathing to speak. Breathing to sing. Does it help? Absolutely.
I take voice lessons. I had to learn how to breathe to sing. It is very conscious breathing for me. I can’t breathe like that unconsciously yet. It relaxes me, and it allows my voice range to increase, and actually can allow notes to sound pretty as they come out of my mouth. I did this to train myself not to hold my breath when I speak. It worked. However, sometimes I’m so wound up when I go for a voice lesson I can’t breathe. I realize that I’m doing that shallow panting breath, and sometimes it is even hard for me, who is practiced at breathing, to regain control of the air flowing in and out of my body, sustaining it, relaxing it, recharging it.
The fact that I have to remind myself to breathe is not so good. We all breathe unconsciously, obviously. But how many of us breathe in such a shallow way most of the time that we are almost panting? I know that sometimes that would describe me perfectly. We are so hurried, so rushed, so anxious that we often are in “get through it” mode, and our bodies respond with a stress response. That includes shallow breathing. It happens so often that we usually are not even aware until we are finally slowing down enough to take a real breath. A real breath is just that. The conscious act of a deep breath is a different thing.
What is the point of conscious breathing, deep breathing? Well, it truly does lower our stress, and puts us back in control of ourselves, even of our emotional and physiological response to stress. There are so many stressors in our society in this technological age. We are all under pressure to do more, to do it faster, to do it better.
Being mindful of breath, mindfulness practice, has been very helpful to focus me on the present; on what is right in front of me. I try to spend some time meditating every day. I am getting better at being, and breathing.
One of the benefits of breathing, deep conscious breathing, is the ability to pause and take stock of any situation or feeling. It is an opportunity to shift perspective. Breathing and counting to 10 before responding is one of the greatest gifts we can give, both to ourselves and to others. Slowing down the pace, and re-engaging our brain can keep us from responding too quickly and responding in a way we later wish we hadn’t. A stress response is never a good response, unless it is something like getting out of a dangerous situation.
By slowing down and breathing for a moment, we can think about how we respond, and we can, and should think about what prompted another person to do or say what they did when we would tend to make a snap stress response. What were they thinking? What are we thinking? How can something as simple as taking a deep breath give us time to change or temper our response? Sometimes perspective shift, thinking beyond ourselves is all it takes to awaken compassion within ourselves, and eventually, maybe in another.
We can’t smell the flowers without breathing. It’s Jasmine season in Houston. Time to take some deep breaths. Sometime soon, when you are feeling anxious, or feeling a lot of tension, be conscious of how you are breathing. Be conscious of how that breathing makes you feel. Slow deep breath in 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8...Slowly breathe out, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Now, try repeating this for a whole minute. Breathing changes everything.