Pay Close Attention Here
Place your hand on your belly. Take a deep breath. Notice how your muscles move when you inhale and exhale? You’re doing it! Keep moving your belly, overexaggerating the movement by pulling your abs in and pushing out your stomach. Keep it up and keep reading.
On the inhale, the diaphragm (large, thin, dome-shaped muscle that sits at the base of the chest) moves downward and the intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs) expand so the lungs have room for more air. As we exhale, we’re moving carbon dioxide out of the body. The diaphragm lifts back up and the intercostal muscles contract, expelling all the air out of our bodies.
Within seconds, you have lowered your heart rate, enhanced the flow of oxygen into every part of your body, and sent messages to your brain that you are safe. Are you feeling a bit more calm than you did five seconds ago? If you noticed anything as you read the last paragraph, it’s a win! Paying attention to your breath, for even just a moment, is awareness. That’s It.
Take a Minute
Try This Box Breath Exercise before a Test:
This exercise increases focus, awareness, and observation. Facilitator sets a timer for four minutes. Sit in an easy criss-cross position with your sit bones on the earth and your spine tall and lifted up toward the sky. Inhale for a count of four, hold the inhale for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and pause at the bottom of the exhale for a count of four.
You are building a pattern and rhythm for your breathing like a box: inhale up one side of the box, hold across the next side, exhale down the other side, and finally hold for the final side. Then, begin again. This helps the body and the systems know what is coming next. It calms anxiety and builds stamina while continuing to flood the body with fresh oxygen for the brain.
Mindful breathing links our breath with our brain. The word yoga means “yoke” or “union.” It’s very yoga to do this breathing practice, with your mind and your breath connected. Yoked. Linked. You get it. The thing is, we need to outsmart our own brains. They are busy working non-stop, constantly trying to protect us from stressors, the big bad monsters in our heads that send us into anxious spirals.
Our breath is the key. We can create calm within the storms of our everyday life. Just by sighing. Hmmm. That’s it. One good sigh, once in a while, allows our nervous system to recover. Repeat after me as many times as you can throughout your day: Hmm.
Our breath is what allows us to become awake, aware, and present within each moment. Paying attention to your breath, for even just a few seconds, is awareness. Take a big sigh to refresh your nervous system and rejuvenate your lungs: Haaa.
Slowing down to take a deep breath allows us to self-regulate so we can respond versus react. Breathwork exercises are the building blocks to developing strategies to change our emotional state.