For most of us our breathing is unconscious. We take approximately 23,000 breaths per day, yet rarely notice one of them when absorbed in the day to day dilemmas and delights; and the busy-ness of work and play. Many of us are breathing in various levels of toxins in any twenty four hour period.  City living, job/work environment and habits like smoking cigarettes, cigars or various other drugs/substances (including alcohol), as well as modern food all affect our breathing.

Sit cross-legged on the floor

Sit cross-legged on the floor

When we do begin to choose a deeper relationship with our breath it can feel strange at first. Almost like you’ve been ‘caught out’ doing something you shouldn’t. The reaction can be like a fight or flight response where breath becomes restricted and fear emerges. For some this ‘uncomfortable’ feeling stops them in their travels, and they figure – “That was too hard, I’ll go back to unconscious breathing thanx – I don’t need the hassle/drama!”

While a fear reaction can be part of deepening our Breath Awareness – it is often brief and easily passed by affirming a commitment to deepen our personal relationship with our breath. AND by accessing and moving through the fear response we are already deepening the awareness in a profound and useful way. So next time we find ourselves in a situation where fear emerges, we can choose to take a DEEP BREATH and move through the feelings – one breath at a time.

Here is a simple technique for developing DEEPER BREATHING and improved lung capacity – It is called the 3 Part Breath – While sitting in a chair with feet flat on floor and back supported (U can sit cross-legged on floor/mat) or lying down on a mat/floor/bed.

  • Place one hand on your abdomen below the belly button. And as you breathe in and out through your nose, ‘send’ the breath down to that hand. Try to create movement of the hand – as you breathe in the hand moves & as you exhale it moves again. Continue breathing into this area for 5-6 breaths (U can do more as U get comfortable with this practice).
  • Next place the hand just above the belly button and do the same – As you breathe in & out create movement of the hand – do another 5-6 breaths into this 2nd position.
  • Then the hand is placed at the top of the chest inline with the underarm, and breath is focused up into the top of the chest (this maybe a little more challenging, but imagine the movement if none at first). Again 5-6 breaths into the area is a good starting count that can be increased whenever you choose.
  • Lastly, we use both hands – placing one down below the belly button (the 1st position), and leaving the other in the 3rd position in line with the underarm. Now we are breathing into all 3 positions – starting at the bottom. We fill the lungs (through the nose) with as much air as we possibly can, hold that full breath for the count of three (1 & 2 & 3). As we exhale through the nose we try to RELAX the breath out of the body (rather than pushing it out). Do 5-6 of these relaxing full breaths, extending the number as you choose.

Congratulations! You are now on your way to developing more and more Breath Awareness!  
As with any new technique – it is advisable to set aside a little time for some regular practice. You can even use the simple 3 Part Breath when you are trying to get to sleep at nite and finding it difficult to relax and ‘switch off’ from your busy day. In Part 2 of Breathe into Life – Balance we explore the relationship between our breath and our ability to stay balanced.