Breathe, Baby, Breathe

by | Jun 3, 2016

I was born in October instead of November – a month early.  My tiny body’s lungs weren’t quite finished. After exiting the warmth of my mother’s womb I was soon carried off to the warmth of an incubator.  Delicate tubes helped me to breathe while minuscule alveoli continued to grow so that the beautiful exchange between lung and heart could take place.  Thankfully my heart beat, my lungs grew, my parents prayed, and now as I write this I’m taking in delicious breaths that make my lungs expand like wings.  I feel incredibly grateful to be able to breathe all the way down to my belly. 

As a kid I took my freedom of breath for granted and just breathed. Now I have a greater conscious appreciation for this very inhale and this very exhale. I understand what Donna Martin writes in her breath-loving poem: “Your attitude to me, says Breath, is your attitude to Life. Welcome me… embrace me fully. Let me nourish you completely, then set me free.” 

Jon Kabat-Zinn, in his book Full Catastrophe Living, provides some cheeky motivation for newcomers to breath appreciation.  He would ask his patients in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programs to place one hand over mouth and nose and hold it… hold it… hold it… And after a little while says to remove the hand and take in that longed-for inhale.  He asks, “Now how interested are you in your breath?”

Certainly when I have a stuffy nose or am in a hot sauna or exercising – then I really appreciate breathing!  But what about when I’m feeling stress, frustration or tiredness?  Where is my breath in those moments?  Sometimes I find myself breathing like the little preemie that I once was – barely! And then I remember, Breathe, baby, breathe!

As Dr. Andrew Weil affirms, breathing is the master key to health when we make it deeper, slower, quieter, and more regular.  (See Breathing: The Master Key to Self Healing from our friends at Sounds True Inc.) As supported by much research, full-lung and regulated breathing has proven to have a wide range of benefits, including:

  • Decreases anxiety and depression, even curing some panic disorders
  • Increases happiness, optimism and confidence
  • Improves sleep, even curing some insomnia
  • Increases energy, cognitive function and alertness
  • Helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure
  • Helps to heal digestive disorders
  • Regulates emotions and increases attunement
  • Improves trauma symptoms
  • Increases pain tolerance and regulates response to pain
  • Reduces impulsivity, cravings and addiction

Ah, yes, take a nice, long deep inhale and literally come more alive!

Emma Seppala, PhD., of Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, offers a nifty infographic on the what, why and how of healing and happy breathing plus links to more info and research.

Breathe with me
Slow and low
Down, down, down, down
To your belly beautiful
Then rise up your chin and smile
Smile, smile, smile
Along with your radiant ribs
Now grinning widely with prana divine

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