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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Time to Catch Our Breath

Oct 29, 2020 07:58PM ● By Naomi Greene
As goes the breath, so follows the body and mind. It may sound simple, but most of us are seldom cognizant of our breathing pattern—even less so during moments of frustration or stress. One of the reasons that stress management, yoga, meditation or other practices work on breathing is that the breath is linked to every emotion we feel or express. When we are stressed or anxious, the first thing that changes is our breathing. The same is true when we’re happy or excited.
   
Think about it. When someone is depressed, breathing is shallow. When surprised or frightened, the ensuing “oh” is a quick inhalation. Crying elicits sobs, with long, sad exhalations and abrupt inhalations. Laughter is automatically accompanied by “ha, ha, ha”, quick in-and-out breaths. When we see a beautiful or peaceful scene, we may take a deep breath, as we visually take it in, then a slow exhalation: “Ahhhh.”
   
Yoga poses and meditation offer regular practice in developing breath awareness and focus. On a purely physical level, practitioners take conscious and deliberate control of the breath. In the long-term, they may expand lung capacity. However, on a deeper level, practitioners learn the difference between diaphragmatic breathing and upper lung breathing, and that the former can bring about emotional and physical health benefits.
   
We can start by simply being aware of our breath at any time of day or situation. Waiting in line at the DMV? Waiting at the pharmacy or store? Starting to feel angry? What is the breath doing? There’s a reason we have the saying “catch your breath”. Our emotions are linked to our breath. Our breathing is linked to our emotions.

Try this, whether sitting, lying down or in the car. If possible, close the eyes.
• Take a long, slow breath to the count of four (1, 2, 3, 4).
• Notice the pause.
• Try to exhale to the same count of four.
• Notice the pause before inhaling again.
• Repeat a couple of times.
• Resume normal breathing.
 
Another easy or simple way to observe the breath is to take note of how we are breathing while watching or listening to something that is emotionally charged, such as a news program, an action movie or drama show. What happens to our breath when we change the channel to a calmer or more peaceful program?
   
Why is our breathing pattern so important? Studies have shown that stress, which is related to the way we breathe, results in biochemical changes in the brain and body. In the short-term, these changes may result in increased adrenaline, cortisol or changes in levels of serotonin. On the other hand, there may be a production of endorphins (the biochemicals that help us feel happy) if we are feeling content. Or are we feeling content because of the production of these biochemical changes? Whatever the case, the breath is definitely involved.
   
Another breathing exercise to try: laughter. Making ourselves and/or someone else laugh can be contrived, even silly at first, but we’ll find it is contagious, and may truly get us laughing. It will change our breath, and maybe even our mood.
   
Beyond the link to emotions and helping practitioners to breathe better, disciplines such as yoga and meditation help to harness the breath and focus the life energies known as prana, or chi. Yogis would say that the feeling of “being scattered” is a result of the prana being scattered. Focusing the breath helps to focus and direct these pranic energies.
   
By oxygenating our body, we can change our emotions. We can change our emotions by changing our breath. During stressful times—perhaps even the upcoming stress-filled holidays—we should take time to check in with our breathing and “catch our breath”.

Naomi Greene is a certified yoga teacher, freelance writer and member of The Yoga Connection.  The nonprofit center offers classes year-round, seven days a week and live-streamed, including many levels of yoga, teacher training, meditation sessions and various workshops. Connect at YogaConnection.org.


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