Without even thinking about it, every day from the day you were born you’ve been doing this activity 20,000 times per day.
We don’t even realize how powerful this activity is in calming our nerves, clearing the mental clutter, shifting negative energy, aiding in proper digestion, signaling relaxation, and invoking a healing response.
And to think, we are doing it all wrong!
But, 120 seconds away from this moment, you can be mentally focused, emotionally sound, and physically energized — all of which will culminate in a unifying sense of clarity and peace if you learn to do it the right way!
What on earth is this powerful activity that you are already doing thousands of times per day?
In and out, your breath provides your body with freshly oxygenated blood to nourish tissues like your organs, muscles, digestive system, and brain. Your heart and nervous system are intimately tied to the breath, operating in a symbiotic relationship constantly striving for internal balance.
Breathing is a unique activity that is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. This means it is an involuntary function that takes place without our having to think about it.
Can you imagine having to remind yourself 20,000 times per day to, “Breathe in now.”
“Ok, now breathe out.”
“Ok, breathe in again…” ☺
Although breathing is automatic, it is also a function that we can control.
We can voluntarily override the automatic signals to breathe in and breathe out any time we want. We can hold our breath to make it safely through a tunnel or dive down to the bottom of a pool to retrieve a penny. We can take in a deep breath in order to belt out our favorite part of a song, or shout down the hall to our kids that it’s dinnertime. We can breathe out a sigh of relief or exasperation.
Most importantly, we can actively deepen and slow our breath rate, we can control the intake and release of air in various patterns, and we can even breathe into specific areas of our bodies to invoke healing.
Studies have repeatedly shown the benefits of deep, focused, voluntary breath work in aiding the reduction of mental, physical, and emotional stress of all kinds.
For many of us, deep breathing seems unnatural. There are several reasons for this. For one, body image has a negative impact on proper respiration in our culture. A flat stomach is considered attractive, so women (and men) tend to hold in their stomach muscles. This interferes with deep breathing and gradually makes shallow “chest breathing” seem normal, which increases tension and anxiety.
Shallow breathing limits the diaphragm’s range of motion. The lowest part of the lungs doesn’t get its full share of oxygenated air, leaving you short of breath and anxious.
Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — which is the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.
In addition, a study that focused on how controlling the breath can help manage anxiety was reported in Forbes and confirmed that specific types of breath work often found in Yoga and meditation leads to physical and emotional clarity.
Controlled breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system — your “rest & digest; tend & befriend” system of energy. This is linked to stimulation of the vagus nerve — a nerve running from the base of the brain to the abdomen, responsible for facilitating nervous system responses and lowering heart rate, among other things.
The vagus nerve releases a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine that stimulates increased focus and calmness. Thus proving to you that 2-minutes to Clarity is only a few deep breaths away!
All you have to do is Follow these 5 simple steps:
- Lay flat on your back with eyes closed (if lying flat is not possible, just get as comfortable as you can with your torso lengthened rather than crunched over).
- Place a hand on your belly button.
- Breathe in slowly and try to move your hand up without your chest moving.
- Exhale and allow your hand to sink with your belly as the air flows out.
- Repeat with just belly breaths for 2 minutes. Aim to deepen your breath each time until you settle into a rhythm with inhales and exhales of equal length.
You may notice at first it’s really challenging to breathe into your belly. As mentioned earlier, we have a few social norms that don’t line up with a distended stomach. But as you practice, you’ll begin to more easily relax your abdomen and you’ll strengthen your diaphragm.
It will feel really good to fill your belly (and low back) more fully and you’ll notice a significant shift in your energy.
Very quickly you’ll have developed a powerful tool to employ in moments of confusion, doubt, or anxiety. Take two minutes right now and experience the power of breath for yourself!