Breath: the elixir of life

September 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Breath is life, offering every cell of our bodies the very elixir it needs, not only to survive, but to thrive. More than that, breath immediately reflects the life we are living. If we can deepen our awareness of that breath and begin to read its messages, we give ourselves the opportunity to create a healthier, happier life.

This was highlighted for me recently during two consecutive yoga practices. Day one’s practice was a tough session, but no matter the effort I exerted, my breath remained slow, steady, fluid, and relaxed – this was a stress-free and relaxed non-working day. The following day’s yoga yielded a totally different breathing pattern: rapid and shallow. No surprises that this was the beginning of the day on a Monday morning, a day I was off to do work I wasn’t particularly enthused about; this was a day my stress levels had raised.

How quickly and noticeably that (considerably low-level) mental stress had affected my physical body. Our ever-helpful bodies, unfortunately, do not respond along a spectrum, but rather have an all or nothing approach to stress, as if all stress was the equivalent to that of being chased by a tiger. The trouble is, our tiger is no longer a tiger but a queue at the supermarket, or an early morning, or a traffic jam, or a deadline. The body’s response to stress, however, places immense stress on the body.

So, back to our elixir of life, the breath: not only can it give us the signals to indicate where we’re at mentally, but it also becomes the tool with which we can help undo some of that mental reaction. There is nothing more calming, no better sedative than that very breath you breathe. A few minutes of deep, full, mindful belly breathing is just what the doctor should be ordering to trick the mind back into a state of no worry. Pause, deep breath into the belly, slowly exhale and allow relaxation to become you.

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