The underestimated power and importance of breathing

THIS IS AN ARTICLE OTHERWISE TITLED: WHAT TO DO WHEN EVERYTHING IS GETTING ON TOP OF YOU AND IT’S 7.22AM AND YOU’RE STRUGGLING TO DECIDE BETWEEN TWO NEGLIGIBLY DIFFERENT PAIRS OF BLACK UNDERWEAR - OR - THE UNDERESTIMATED POWER AND IMPORTANCE OF BREATHING.

How often do you think of your breath? How often do you actively and consciously take a deep breath? Or even, how often to you stop and observe if you are giving yourself the oxygen required to be a fully functioning human? 

I mean, have you considered that humans can literally last weeks without food? Science tell us it’s something ridiculous like 3 weeks!!!

I know personally that Hangry (HUNGRY / ANGRY) kicks in for me at about the 4-5 hour mark. May be 6 hours, at a push. any longer than that, and who knows the consequences?!

Then there’s the scientific improbability that you can last more than a week without water. I mean I’m Australian and if you were caught on the beach or in the outback on a hot day without water or shelter, it would be around the 3 hour mark that you’d become a local colloquialism: “Catcus” (dead).

So what for oxygen? It’s terrifyingly even less! Around the 3 minute mark in fact. Unless, of course you’re a deep sea diver. Despite this, I would stand to claim that our awareness of our own personal oxygen consumption is one of the least prioritised, yet absolutely non-negotiable, biological needs we humans have. So why don't we pay more attention to it?

I guess the unconscious nature of breathing, like the beating of our heart, allows us to focus on the billion other attention grabbing interruptions we deal with on any given day.

What if I told you that slow and steady breathes, such as those practiced in Yoga, might in fact be the single easiest and accessible conscious action you could take to improve your minute, hour, day or even month?

According to Dr. Richard Brown, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, the act of consciously changing the way you breathe triggers a beautiful chain of communications in the body: your parasympathetic nervous system slows the heart, eases digestion and bring about feelings of calm.

Early reporting on a recent University of Boston study looking at participants undergoing 12 weeks of daily yoga (asana) and breath practice, noted the effects on the body /mind were similar to the results of anti-depressants.

What to do now? Well make sure that you give yourself a little breath awareness time everyday; at your desk, on the bus, in front of the TV set a reminder on your phone or in your diary and take 3 minutes for oxygenating your beautiful, ultterly human, being. You might also like to experiment with an more intentional mediation program.

Better yet, come along to my candlelit Calm before Christmas Urban Yoga Retreat afternoon at the lovely Santosa Yoga and Mediation Studios, Edinburgh on Saturday 3 December. We will work with breath to bring ease and calm to body, restoratively move through yoga poses and end with a dreamy Yoga nidra (guided mediation).

It will be a opportunity for calm and joy, just for you.

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