The average person can live from 4 to 6 weeks without food and about 1 week without any water. Without oxygen, the biological breakdown of the human form begins to occur within three minutes.
Take some time to ponder the vastness of that statement. Without the simple in and out of air through your lungs on a constant basis, your physical form begins releasing ‘life’ within three minutes of your last breath.
Consider that blessing. Honor and be in awe of what the breath is to our bodies. Without the breath, we cease to be. What an inexplicable miracle … and how frighteningly fragile it makes us. We need to acknowledge both.
The sad fact is that many, if not most, adult Americans might just be breathing “wrong” … better stated, “breathing into the upper portion of their chest only, instead of utilizing the full capacity of the lungs.” When everyday stress hits, relaxed breathing (which naturally begins down in the abdomen) moves upward and becomes more shallow and short; and often engages our adrenaline fueled fight-or-flight response. The body then receives less oxygen, and it’s harder for the body to perform even the simplest functions.
Makes sense, right? Too little O2 es no bueno.
Start breathing better by doing the following twice per day, morning and night. Sit comfortably with a straight back (either seated on the floor or in a chair) and place on hand flat onto your belly and one hand onto your chest. Focus on expanding the abdomen out first and then move the breath up higher until the hand on your chest moves too. Reverse the process. Breathe as slowly and deeply and comfortably as possible (without holding the breath on either side). You will find that your breathing will naturally slow down as you go through the breaths.
Breathe for ten breaths. In/out counts as “1”.
Start at the very beginning. Learn to breathe and fuel your body with oxygen more effectively.
Then, when you are ready to move forward, bring your breath to a meditation. One of meditation’s greatest achievements is bringing the attention of the breath to our busy minds. It is the simplest form/manner of meditation there is. Think of your beginning meditations as the Celebration of Breath.
Sit comfortably. Palms up or down on your thighs. Shut your eyes. Focus your attention on your breath. Breathe in. Translated literally from the original Sanskrit, pranayama means “the science of breath” … and believe it or not, just breathing might not be enough.
Search for tension in your shoulders … release it. Tension in your jaw … release. Let all tension and stress of the day just melt away from you. Just cease to be. Release it.
If this is your first attempt, it may be easiest to mentally say the words “breathe in” on your intake and mentally say “breathe out” as you do so.
This helps initially to quiet a mind that has never before known the practice of meditation. It almost acts as a preparation to the mind to say, “hey we are about to try something new here, but here is your heads up.” After a while, you will naturally be able to drop the mental repetition.
Meditation won’t make the ‘story’ of your life silence itself completely … that is impossible. It is how our minds work naturally. Meditation can, however, lower your blood pressure, relieve stress, connect you to a higher vision of your Self, help you to focus and work out problems, and teach you to simply hear/watch/listen and then disconnect the mental chatter that sometimes overwhelms us all; especially the negative. Oofah. What a relief!
Set an alarm for three minutes. And just breathe.
Your mind and body will appreciate it. The practice will put you in closer touch with the miracle of your own breath and, in time, will help you to center yourself and find a different way of being.