Here’s a passage from my book Leap Before You Look.

Notice how you are already breathing in this moment.
Is the breath coming more into the upper part of the body?
Is it reaching the diaphragm?
Or is the breath reaching all the way down to the lower belly?
After just watching the way you are breathing for a couple of minutes,
Begin to bring some intention to your breathing.
With the in-breath,
Let the lower belly soften and expand.
When the lower belly feels full,
Feel the diaphragm expand with the breath.
Finally, let the chest and lungs fill completely with breath.
Hold the in-breath for a few moments,
Only as long as is comfortable,
Then let the air be expelled fully from the lungs:
First from the chest, then the diaphragm, and then the lower belly.
Just when you think you’re done,
Give an extra little push,
And you will find there is even more air to be expelled.
Hold on the out-breath for a few moments, before you inhale again.
Continue to breathe totally in this way for several minutes.

Awareness of the breath and breathing consciously is the basis of all yoga practices. It reduces stress and anxiety, brings fresh oxygen to the blood, and restores us to fully feeling what we are experiencing and to being in the present moment. It is so simple, and it can be done anywhere at any time.

The natural wisdom of the body allows it to breathe totally. At night, whenever you are in dreamless sleep, you naturally start to breathe from the belly. You wake up from a good night’s sleep feeling refreshed, new-born. The problems of the night before seem far-off; you have new energy and a new outlook. All this is because you were breathing into the belly for many hours, and the whole system has become rejuvenated as a result.

Our breathing closes down because of our nonstop thinking and our unwillingness to feel. Most of us breathe only halfway, into the chest but not all the way down into the lower belly. We feel less emotional pain that way, but we also feel less alive. We move more into the mental world. It is a vicious cycle: our closing down emotionally leads to restricted breathing, which in turn leads to further shutting down, thought, and emotional disconnect.

When you breathe totally in the way described here, you will feel more, and the feelings will also pass more quickly. Your thoughts will become more transparent—they will seem less real to you, less concrete. You will be fooled less often by the mind. This is a great practice to do when you feel nervous; actors and performers practice in this way to calm themselves and to remain focused. Use this practice frequently, and it will start to become a new way of living.

To get 71 more simple practices like these, purchase my book Leap Before You Look here.

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