“If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.” When I first read this quote from a renowned holistic medical doctor, Andrew Weil, I didn’t fully understand it. I’d been breathing my entire life after all, so I was pretty sure I knew how to breathe, right? …NOT! Years later, after my first facilitated breath session in 2008, I began to realize my breath was not serving me optimally, and my breath journey began.
When you discover the power of your breath, it can be life-changing. Breath is the movement of Spirit in and through the body. It is the connection between body and soul. In this column, over the coming months, I will share some breathing tips and tools that I’ve learned over the past 20 years while on my breath journey. My hope is that you will become inspired to explore the power of your breath more deeply and begin your own breath journey.
Breath is life, yet most people barely breathe. In fact, 80% of people use only 30% of their breath capacity. So now as you’re reading this, take a breath. Let it go, and take another. Can you breathe in a little deeper? As you draw in your breath slowly, notice it coming in through your nose and feel it flowing into the back of your throat and down into your lungs. As your lungs start to fill up with oxygen, notice your body filling up with life force, vitality.
Breath is the only system in the body that functions both consciously and unconsciously, and most of our 24,000 daily breaths are unconscious. We know when we’re sleeping or performing mundane tasks, we’re still breathing. To make your breath conscious, become aware of it…simply pay attention to your breath. As we notice our breath and allow it to flow through us, it guides us to the present moment. The regrets of the past and the worries of the future fade into the background. The body feels safe and releases tension. We let go of our defenses and old patterns that no longer serve. Breath opens us up to connect with our true nature…our divinity.
The diaphragm is a muscle that lies underneath the ribs and does most of the work while breathing. Many people do not use the diaphragm properly when they breathe. Instead, they use their back and intercostal muscles which do not allow for a full breath. This is sometimes called backward breathing or chest breathing.
With our modern-day stress-producing lifestyles, about a quarter of the population breathes backward. The chest expands during inhalation, filling the upper part of the lungs with air and the region around the diaphragm remains stationary and is tense. Over time, backward breathing can lead to anxiety, back problems, reproductive issues, and many health disorders. Proper use of the diaphragm brings energy into every bodily system and gives our organs a massage (24,000 times a day). This enhances blood flow, bringing more oxygen and nutrients into our cells, and it moves our lymph that carries away toxins.
To find out if you’re using your diaphragm properly, place one hand on your belly (below your navel). Take a breath. Does your belly move in or out on the inhale…or does it move at all? If your belly falls or stays stationary while inhaling, you may be a backward breather. You can check further by placing your fingers up, underneath your ribs where they meet the diaphragm. If you’re breathing properly, the diaphragm will push your fingers down and out while inhaling. If you apply gentle pressure with your fingers there and take several small breaths, your diaphragm will strengthen. Over time, this practice will help your body remember how it was designed to breathe.
We are in an intense phase of an individual and global transformation. Humanity is making a critical evolutionary leap in consciousness that both urges and inspires us to transmute our blocked emotions, heal our bodies, free our minds and connect to our divinity.
As we become consciously aware of our breath and learn to use our diaphragm correctly, breath becomes a powerful tool that can reduce stress, heighten self-awareness and empower us through change. How do we do this? …Just B-R-E-A-T-H-E.