Breathe Your Way to a Calm Mind
If we can master our breath, it becomes possible to master our minds.
Have you ever noticed the way your breath mirrors your mood? The breath can be our faithful ally that backs up how we feel in that moment. I think back to moments of anger and recollect my heated breath, pounding at the surface of my chest ready to pounce out of my body and attack. I take a deep breath to recollect myself before imagining a moment of anxiety. I remember the tightness of my breath matching the tightness of my muscles, my restricted options equaling my restricted breath. I once again cascade this emotion from my mind with a deep inhale and a slow exhale. I think back to a moment of joy, and await in anticipation the recollection of this wonderfully fizzy breath radiating energy through my whole body, the softness of my eyebrows is gently reflected in the softness of my smile. I take one final deep breath, wiping my mind clean to remember a moment of deep relaxation. I consider my breath in slow motion, mirroring the slow and still nature of my body. I blink my eyes, take a breath and come back into the present moment.
The breath does not need to be a determined subordinate to our emotions. The breath can instead be their leader; this can be done by reversing the relationship. In the same way that a change in our emotional state can summon the suitable breath needed to sustain this mood; a change in our breath can beckon the suitable emotional state to match.
Of all of these states that our breath brings about, calm and relaxation has to be a highlight. In order to explain this better, we have two nervous systems; one that releases stress into the body through releasing adrenaline and cortisol when we face a threat and another that initiates the relaxation process through releasing serotonin and oxytocin when the threat has passed. However, with our busy and stressful lives, with constant connection to emails and a never ending to do list that only seems to ever get bigger, the threat may never pass and we may not be getting all of the hormones we need to balance this stress out in our lives.
Simply breathing slowly, deeply and calmly can bring about an equivalent mood of slowing down and calming the mind as well as inviting the body into a deep state of relaxation. Studies have shown that this kind of breathing can have a profound impact on our health and wellbeing. By practicing deep breathing, we are able to regulate our emotions, lower our blood pressure, reduce stress levels and experience a sense of calm through igniting our parasympathetic nervous system to release warm, comforting and happy hormones. If we can master our breath, it becomes possible to master our minds.
How this is done:
Place one hand on your belly to provide a target for where to send the breath. Keep your shoulders away from your ears as you inhale through your nose for a count of four, relaxing our bellies, allowing them to inflate as we inhale fully to a count of four. Notice the moment of change when the inhale subtly transforms itself into an exhale, feeling the belly draw towards our body, your muscles soften as you exhale through your nose for a count of four. Do this for 3 minutes to begin with, working your way up to 10 minutes. It is also possible to lengthen the count from 4, to 6, to 8 seconds as you progress. Once you have progressed with this you may also wish to visualize your breath and become playful, inhaling all the way down to your little toe and exhaling through the crown of your head. Where you send your breath is your own personal adventure!