Your breath holds the key
If you practice yoga or meditation regularly you may already know know why the breath is important. But, if you're new to this, don't worry. We're going to provide three reasons why your breath is so important in mindfulness and for general health and wellbeing.
1. The breath knows
I want you to experiment by setting an alarm at a random time today. When this alarm sounds, take moment to check the rhythm of your breath. Notice whether you were holding your breath, taking shallow breaths, or allowing time for slow, deep breaths. Our breathing changes depending on whether we are in a stressed or restful state. When we're stressed, most of us find ourselves breathing irregularly, taking shallow breaths at irregular times. We might find ourselves occasionally taking big breaths, then return to a pattern of shallow breathing. Sometimes when we're stress or anxious, we might also find ourselves holding our breaths, like our breaths have been caught in our throats. On the other hand, when we're in a restful state, like when we're about to go to sleep, our breath becomes slow, deep, and rhythmic. So to find out what state you're in, check-in with your breath throughout the day.
2. It's the key to the rest and digest mode
You might remember that in the last blog, I mentioned the sympathetic nervous system (SNS; part of the stress response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS; rest and digest mode). Taking slow and deep breaths is a fast way to activate the rest and digest mode. Simply put, when you slow down both your inhales and exhales you are sending powerful signals to your brain that you are not under threat. One of the most effective breathing techniques to switch off your stress response is called, "belly breaths".
Listen here for Week 2 Mindfulness of Breath exercise that takes you through belly breathing.
3. The breath is grounding
The breath is the anchor to our time-traveling, monkey-minds. Our mind is constantly buzzing away with worries, thoughts about the past, to-dos, future plans, predictions, judgements, and jumping to conclusions. Untrained, our mind rarely has the opportunity to remain still, and this can feel exhausting. The breath can be our gentle grounding point of attention. As the breath never goes anywhere (as we are alive!), we can bring our attention back to our breaths when we start to feel overwhelmed by our thoughts.