Breathing Deep

“Whatever life hands me, I breathe into with a soft belly and an open heart.” – Fragrant Heart Daily Meditation

I’ve been attempting to incorporate breath into my daily life more. It sounds silly because, well, we all have to breathe to get through the day. But I’m trying to consciously take deeper, fuller breaths, particularly in situations where I am frustrated and teetering on the edge of annoyance. Or maybe already in full on annoyance mode. Perhaps even gaining speed toward anger or hurt.

In class the other day, our professor got very sidetracked on a topic that wasn’t relevant to the lecture. It was, in fact, only related to whether or not to delay our upcoming test. I didn’t want to delay it because I was prepared, and there didn’t seem to be a point. I was getting more and more annoyed as the discussion dragged on, taking away the time we had to review the practice problems.

At the point where I was literally ready to get up and leave the room, I took several deep breaths. Rather suddenly, all those negative feelings left me and I saw that people in the class just wanted to be aptly prepared for the exam. We’re in the midst of midterms, and it can be challenging to have tests back to back. I’m sure some people were facing an onslaught of tests and wanted the extra time to study. Or maybe not, and they were just trying to push it back for the sake of it. Regardless, by breathing deeply and fully, I realized it had nothing to do with me. How blissfully freeing that was!

The breath helped me release the actual physical tension I was holding in my body, particularly my jaw, shoulders, and abdomen. I had a massage last night and she told me my neck is 75% out of alignment (which explains all the pain) and that my muscles are all bound up into that as well. I don’t think breathing is going to realign my neck, which is too bad, really, but with regular practice, I believe it will prevent some of the resulting muscle tightness.

There’s a lot of science out there about the value of conscious breathing – just a few here, here, and here – and it’s something we likely pay far too little attention to in our every day lives. It’s not always easy to remember, especially when we’re flying from activity to activity, or we’re so tired from all that rushing that we just want to chill on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and a few good TV shows (aka me last night). But the more conscious we are of our breath, the more we can utilize it as a tool for our physical and mental well being. I try to incorporate conscious breathing throughout my day, and then specifically for 10 minutes of meditation in the morning. Plus I pay close attention to it in yoga. Having concentrated moments of awareness helps me stay aware in those other, less serene, moments.

What impact does paying attention to your breath have on your well being?

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