March 26th, 2014

Breathe—as in remember to breathe.

Your breath is the major connection between your body and brain. It is important to understand that how you breathe affects the health of your mind, body, and spirit. The average person takes between 17,000 and 23,000 breaths per day—and you don’t have to think about it one bit.

I include a segment on breathing when I teach classes on brain health, memory and stress reduction.

Most of us don’t know how to breathe beneficially. Unless we have been trained to sing in a choir, and been taught to breathe from our abdomen, most of us breathe shallowly from the top of our lungs. This type of breathing keeps us alive and functioning, but does not give us the maximum benefits received from filling our lungs to capacity with fresh oxygen rich blood.

I am taking Pranayama breathing classes here on the island. I would like to share some of the techniques I have been taught in class here. These techniques are ancient and tested to induce a sense of calm and stress reduction (no prescription needed, no cost incurred, no side effects to be concerned about).

I invite you to take a moment now and listen to your breathing. After a minute or so, place your hand on your belly and inhale a long deep breath. As you inhale, feel your belly expand like a balloon. Exhale slowly and feel your belly contract. My instructor says that we must practice this deep belly breathing throughout the day. A series of five deep cleansing breaths several times a day is beneficial for mind, body, spirit. Try it the next time you are feeling stressed. Make sure that you inhale and exhale through your nose.

To take healthy breathing a step further, inhale three deep breaths and exhale slowly as you become more relaxed. Breathe in and out through your nose. Breathe in for a count of three and out for a count of six. The exhale is the most relaxing part of this breathing exercise. Practice breathing in for a count of three, out for a count of six at least three times. Practice this counted breathing four or five times a day. Soon you will realize you are calmer and more relaxed throughout the day. This is good! Feeling calm and relaxed is good for mind body and spirit.

When you are accomplished at this count, try breathing in for a count of four and out for a count of eight. It takes practice to control your exhale to a slow even pace. At the next level breathe in for a count of five and out for a count of ten. Remember always breathe in and out of your nose.

One more healthy breathing exercise that we do in class is alternate nostril breathing. Let me explain:

  • Take your right hand and place your thumb lightly on your right nostril.
  • Bend your index, middle and ring fingers in toward your palm. Place your pinky finger lightly on your left nostril.
  • Gently press your thumb against your right nostril to close off breathing.
  • Breathe in through your left nostril. Gently press your pinky finger on your left nostril and as you remove your thumb, breathe out through your right nostril.
  • Breathe in through the right nostril, gently close it and breathe out through your left nostril.
  • Continue this alternate nostril breathing for about five breaths on each side.
  • As it becomes more comfortable increase the number of alternate breaths to ten.
  • This breathing technique has been practiced around the world for centuries bringing calmness and stress reduction to countless numbers of people.

For optimum and long lasting results these techniques need to be done every day (during TV commercials is a good time). They take a minimum amount of time and provide a maximum amount of benefit to help all of us age well in mind, body, and spirit. In our stress filled world, purposeful, beneficial breathing techniques provide us with time honored, free, and proven benefits. Anything and everything that can help us age well is a blessing.

Thinking ministry – Arriving at church or Bible study or personal prayer time is greatly enhanced when we are calm and relaxed and open to the message of the Holy Spirit.

Remember to breathe!

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