Spiritual Micro-Practice – Just Breathe

This is the beginning of a series of articles on spiritual “micro-practices” that will assist you in staying connected to your calm core in the midst of the relentless flow of life events. I have coined the term “micro-practice” to refer to any intentional activity that takes less than five minutes that keeps us tied to our “tap-root”. Over the years I have discovered that most people were never taught the tremendous benefits of deep breathing. Breathing is integrally tied to staying in your body and being present to life. I learned to breathe because I took voice lessons. Before that time, I don’t think I had ever completely filled my lung capacity.

I continue to be amazed at the power of breathing to calm the body, spirit and mind. Most of us tend to be shallow “panters”, using a small portion of our lung capacity. Under stress, when we become anxious, frightened or angry, our breathing becomes even more shallow. Shallow breathing increases states of anxiety because our brains and bodies do not receive the oxygen we need. Breathing deeply in times of stress will slow you down, lower your blood pressure and clear your mind. I have all my clients practice this and it is part of any workshop I do.

Micro-practice #1

JUST BREATHE

You can do this practice at home, in the office and in your car.   I guarantee that this practice will change your life.

Two or three times a day, stop and breathe with full attention.  Find a place where you can be still for one or two minutes and do nothing but concentrate on deep, slow belly breathing.  What I mean by belly breathing is that your stomach should inflate as you are inhaling and deflate as you are exhaling.  Imagine following your breath as it travels down your nostrils. Feel how it fills up your “stomach” then moves up slowly into your chest.  Breathe slowly.  After you are completely full, hold your breath and count to five.  Release slowly.  Try blowing it out as if you are blowing through a straw. Repeat this ten times.  Women in particular have difficulty breathing in deeply.  We tend to hold our stomachs in…perpetually, until this feels natural.  It’s not.  In this exercise you are to release your hold on your belly and let it move out.  Your shoulders should stay stationary.

To expand this exercise, imagine that you are breathing in all the way down to your toes.  Exhale.  Breath in and imagine you are breathing in a soft light from the heavens, filling you with peace or joy.  Exhale.  You can also imagine breathing in from the ground up, pulling warm, grounding energy into your body.

Try this breathing exercise before an important meeting or any personal interchange that you predict may be stressful.  If you notice yourself getting wound up during the day, begin to breathe deeply and notice how it slows down your heart rate and reactivity.  Make this a regular part of your day and breathe deeply whenever you get the chance.  Practing Deep Breathing in your car before you enter the workplace.  Breathe before a meeting or going into the grocery store.  Breathe while you are cooking dinner or paying bills.  Breathe during phone calls.  Breathe before eating or engaging in a habit you want to break.  Breathe before drifting off the sleep.

As you practice this regularly, you will find yourself breathing more deeply and naturally throughout the day. You will be calmer, clearer, and more present as a result.

spiritual "micro-practices"

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