A reminder to just keep breathing is something that can help you immensely in pretty much all your factors of health. Your digestion, immunity, clear-headedness, and especially, your stress levels. Paying attention to your breath for just a couple minutes a day can help you stay away from, or come back from, the brink of burnout. Because it is incredibly restorative to your body and your mind. Breathing better helps you turn down the urgency on your reactions to the things that feel like coming our way multiple times a day.
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The Need to Resist
I just want to say that I get it if you hear a recommendation about paying attention to your breath by doing some deep breathing and you think, ‘Oh God, please no! Anything but that.’ I have a true confession for you: I feel the same way every time my beloved yoga teacher announces we’re going to be doing a breathing practice at the end of class. I think, ‘Noooooooooooo I don’t wannnnnnna.’
And then I do it anyway, because I know it’s good for me. Afterwards it’s like I’m floating on a cloud of grooviness and I think to myself, why do I resist that every time?
I actually have a theory about why we resist the things that make us feel like we’re floating on a cloud of grooviness. And that’s because the ego, which is your survival system and obsessed with keeping you safe, really really REALLY gets nervous about anything that helps you remember that you are powerful and wise. Because when you remember those things you tend to get inspired.
And hey, interesting factoid: the Latin root of inspired means filled with breath.
And when you get inspired, you tend to have ideas about doing things that will call you forward. And that makes the ego REALLY nervous because it associates staying safe with things never really changing. So it sends you those thoughts like, ‘Noooooooo’ and ‘Waaaaaahhhh.’
Sometimes, you just have to flat out ignore this voice. The same way you ignore it when it comes out of your kid’s mouth and you tell them, ‘I understand you don’t want to, but we’re doing it anyway.’ This is what you need to say to yourself if you feel an inner tantrum coming on at the very thought of devoting paying attention to your breath.
Just Keep Breathing
Here’s how you start paying attention to your breath. Get your phone out and set a timer for 2 minutes. And then either sit up someone where where you can comfortably have your spine extended so that your lungs have plenty of room to move and your abdominal organs aren’t smushed. It’s really helpful to sit on the floor with your hips up on something like a couple of couch cushions or a yoga bolster or a couple of folded towels or blankets. Because it helps your hips open up.
You can also sit with your spine supported in a hard-backed chair, so sitting way back in the chair seat. Or, if sitting tall is just too much effort and or uncomfortable lie on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. And a book or two under the back of your head so that your forehead is slightly higher than your chin.
Then bring your hands to your belly. I know. We don’t really like to touch our bellies. They rarely feel the way we want them to feel. Do it anyway with as much love for that part of your body as you can muster. And then press go on your timer, close your eyes, and focus your attention on feeling your hands move away from your spine as you inhale and fall back toward your spine as you exhale. That my friends is abdominal breathing and it unlocks your diaphragm, which sends the all clear signal to your nervous system. And it’s totally free and totally enlivening because it deepens your breath which brings more oxygen to your cells and it also expels more old stale air and carbon dioxide from your lungs so it’s also detoxifying.
Lets Do It Together
And honestly paying attention to your breath is so simple and healing and helps you feel better so… why don’t we do it right now?
Yes, right now. We’ll just do one breath so you have the experience of it in your bones and it will be that much easier to do for a longer period of time on your own later. C’mon. Pretty please, for me??
I’m in no way the only one suggesting you start taking some conscious deep breaths every day. Dr. Andrew Weil, he of the bushy white beard and the public television shows all about natural health has been teaching people the 4, 7, 8 breath for decades. That’s where you breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7, release through your mouth for a count of 8.
I recently heard from a listener named Hailey who wrote in to talk about how much doing the 4, 7, 8 breath has helped her deal with Covid stress. She calls it, “The single best thing I have done for my mental health & stress.” She says she does it whenever she’s “feeling super anxious or stressed.” And that pretending to blow through a straw on the exhale helped her when she first started. Hailey says she does it right when she wakes up and before she goes to bed for about 5 minutes at a time. She says she also does it whenever she’s feeling anxiety creeping in or physical pain. And that the anxiety and pain always disappear after the exercise.
Daily Tiny Assignment
So guess what you’ve already done your tiny assignment—you’ve already taken one deep breath. And if you didn’t do it with me earlier, welp, now’s your time. I promise you will be glad you did! Go on start paying attention to your breath!
Take The Survey
As I plan out episodes for the rest of the year, I would love to hear what’s getting in the way of you feeling like a better person. Please go to https://tinyurl.com/betterpersonsurvey to take a super short survey that tells me the #1 thing you struggle with when it comes to being better. Your voice matters and what you have to say really influences my thinking so much. I want to make sure I’m making future episodes that really help, and your taking this survey is a crucial part of that. Thank you in advance!