Supercharge your body and mind by embracing the healing practice of mindful breathing!
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Here are the stats: on average, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute. This means we breathe about 960 breaths per hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year. Unless we get a lot of exercise. The person who lives to be 80 will take about 672,768,000 breaths in their lifetime. And all of that, completely involuntary (thank goodness for that!). Just as blinking or digesting, breathing occurs from our autonomic nervous system. What makes breathing different, however, is that when done intentionally, certain patterns of breathing can change how we feel internally.
Intentional or conscious breathing simply means being aware of your own breath rhythm: noticing it, acknowledging it, studying it and adjusting it accordingly. When people are anxious or stressed, they tend to take shallow breaths, breathing from their shoulders, instead of expanding the lungs and diaphragm, with conscious focus.
But why are we even talking about this? Well, it seems that human kind could really do with some calming practices and we need as much help as we can get! According to The World Health Organisation (WHO), sleep dysfunction has already reached an epidemic level and by 2020 depression and anxiety will account for number 1 disability worldwide! We now live in a digitally-obsessed escapist society which we call “the new normal”. Supposedly we are now more connected than ever but we’re actually lonely, and while our natural state is to thrive, based on how much medication we have to use, we’re far from being a society of happy bunnies. And as much as we need a sustainable world, we also need a sustainable home and body.
So, one of the simplest strategies we can develop is to create a daily mindful practice of breath work. Mindfulness (cultivating attention in a particular way) is already common practice worldwide – in the United Stated alone meditation is used in 40% of prevalent corporations such as Google and Silicon Valley. The US Defense department is now also advocating breath and yoga for veterans with PTSD as part of their project “Welcome Home Troops“. So if you think yoga and tough guys don’t mix, think again!
According to yogi teachings, the vital life force energy known as Chi, Ki, or Prana, moves throughout our body’s magnetic field and can be regulated through breath. Through regular and sustained practice of Pranayama – breath control – you can heal and surcharge your whole body.
Short-term benefits of mindful breathing include: relaxation, improved focus, memory and performance, while long-term you can expect better emotion regulation and resilience, increases self-awareness (including of one’s own stress level), overall rest for the body and mind (including sleep) and can even combat depression. Intentional breathing practices also make for a great interlude to meditation as they calm the nervous system and trigger the fight-or-flight to switch off, and rest-and-digest to switch on. And did you know that deep, cleansing breaths give your lymph system a big helping hand in clearing out the toxins from your body?
Wanna try it? We love the 4-7-8 technique (involving manipulation of breath with 3 phases: inhalation, retention and exhalation) as well as the Single Nostril exercise (as in the main picture, in case you were wondering), which creates balance between our “warming” and “cool” energies. In the meantime, we have tracked down one of the modern conscious breathing masters, Max Strom, who specializes in personal health and growth through mindfulness. So take a deep breath, and enjoy this wonderful healing breath practice below…