Many years ago I read something by Thich Nhat Hanh, a well know Zen Master, that really stuck with me. He said...
"Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness,
which unites your body to your thoughts."
It was a true revolution to me. It was at a time in my life where I was looking for greater peace and had begun to practice mediation in earnest. I was struggling to find ease in the practice and was growing frustrated. Then I picked up a tiny little book about breathing by Thich Nhat Hanh and read that quote. Something clicked in that moment and breath became mindfulness and my body began to ease and settle during my practice. Years later, I practice mindful breathing daily, with intention. It is not always formal meditation but simple breath awareness while waiting in line at the grocery story, stuck in traffic, frustrated by loved ones and well, just while facing life's most basic challenges.
Breath comes so naturally, so instinctively to us that we aren't even aware we are doing it. Thank goodness right? But what happens when you breath with mindfulness? We are able to connect our breath to our mind and to our body. It is literally like pausing life. In that pause, we are able to shift our focus from what was or might be to what is. In that pause, we are able to develop clarity and calm. We are able to slow down, just be, find ease. That calmer mental state has profound affects. We will likely move forward with greater patience, grace and compassion but our bodies experience something proudly healing in that breath, in that pause.
Mindful breathing regulates the heart rate, reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attack, boosts your immune system, improves symptoms of asthma, reduces inflammation in the body, reduces pain from fibromyalgia and arthritis, helps regulate blood sugar levels, symptoms from PMS, boosts our energy, improves quality of sleep, slows aging and so much more!
And while the physical health benefits of mindful breathing are powerful, what it does for our mental health is simply amazing. We feel less stress and anxiety, feelings of depression, isolation and loneliness are dramatically decreased, it is a power tool in managing ADHD, is proven to help break patterns of addiction to things like drugs, alcohol, over eating, smoking and more. Through mindful breath panic and anxiety attacks are more easily manged. Our mental state moves to one of optimism, we have better focus, are less impulsive and generally more joyful.
The simple act of mindfully breathing in calms the body and with each mindful exhale we feel more relaxed and greater joy. The pause that comes with mindful breath connects us to the present moment where we can see and feel things much more clearly.
This month at the yoga studio where I teach, our theme has been breath. I am enjoying sharing my own experiences with mindful breathing with my students. For me, mediation and mindful breath has allowed me to face challenges mentally and physically. It has helped my body heal from physical illness and trauma. Mindful breath has gifted me peace of mind during some of the most emotional times of my life. I don't often sit in extended periods of mediation but more often just allow myself a few minutes of attentive breathing.
The benefits you reap from just a few moments of mindful breathing, create that pause you need to reset, refocus and refresh.
In Health & Wellness...Live Radiantly!