We all breathe, many times, all day long. But how many of us breathe on purpose? With our attention on our breathing? And why should we want to breathe on purpose with attention?
Taking time out everyday to do a breathing exercise can help our stress hormones settle down. It can help us learn how to sit and just be ourselves, without proving anything to anyone. It can help us see what thoughts and/or emotions arise within us. It can help us learn to become observant to our inner selves. It’s taking a time-out from the hectic, stressful world that surrounds us, which lets our nervous system calm down. It’s free! And it’s available to us at any time.
I was telling a friend all of the above once, and he responded, “I commute on the train to New York everyday. I don’t have time to breathe.” My response back to him was, “The train is a great place to breathe! I’ve done breathing exercises on trains many times, and also on airplanes too.”
Here is what I usually say to new clients of mine, who are willing to give breathing an initial go in the office with me……..
(You can have someone say this to you while you give it a try, or record yourself reading this ‘script’ & then listening to it. )
- “Sit up with your back straight, and your feet on the ground, hands and feet uncrossed. Close your eyes. Just notice the breath coming into your nostrils, and going out of your nostrils.
- The breath coming in……..and the breath going out………(after a few breaths)……
- Now just notice how your body feels with each breath going in, and each breath going out……. How does your chest feel with each breath?……. How does your abdomen feel?……..How does your head feel?……Just notice and be curious how each breath is affecting your body…………….
- While noticing each breath, you can at the same time think of a word. It can be any word. It can be the number one. It can be a word like, “peace, joy, calm”, or it can be a religious word. So think of your word as you notice your breath coming in and your breath going out……(breath for several breaths)……
- If you notice a thought coming into your awareness, that’s just fine. Say to yourself, ‘Oh look at that thought.’ Pretend it’s on a cloud, and let the thought float out of your awareness on the cloud. Now bring your attention back to your breath coming in and going out again. It’s ok to have a thought, it’s a new opportunity to bring your awareness back to your breath.
- Now I’m going to give you a few minutes to continue to notice your breath on your own. Your breathing in, and your breathing out………….(when I speak again)…….
- Now wiggle your fingers, wiggle your toes, become aware of the chair you are sitting on, your feet on the floor, and open your eyes when you are ready.” (Click here to listen to a short breathing technique audio file)
- I recommend taking the time to breathe everyday.
You can start with 5 minutes. As you practice, you can work your way up to 10 minutes, even 15-20 minutes a day. The most important thing is to do it daily. You can wake up 5 minutes earlier to have time to breathe first thing, after waking up and after going to the bathroom.
You can take a breathing break at any time during your day.
If work is stressful, you can take a break and breathe to let the stressful moment pass. If you are about to go into a stressful meeting, you can take a break and breathe for a few minutes before the meeting. If you don’t have privacy, you can go into a bathroom stall and breathe. No one has to know what you are doing.
I usually ask clients to give it at least 5 minutes every day, and to bring me back the scientific data of how it’s affecting them.
What’s different because you’ve taken a breathing break? What’s improved? What have you noticed? It’s a skill. Once learned, with regular practice, breathing can be utilized along with other tools I’ll be introducing in the future.
Some of my favorite books on breathing are:
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nat Hanh
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Breathing: The Master Key to Self Healing (CD) by Andrew Weil. MD
There are more books, CDs, and even free meditations on the internet for your enjoyment. Do your own search and see what you find that’s helpful.