The power of breath

March 10, 2020

“... We are so much more than just this physical body, yet we can use it — the breath, sensation, and the skin, as points of entry to investigate the impact that our internal and external environment has on our vitality and wellbeing.”

When we sit with ourselves and turn our attention to the breath, simply becoming aware of it, we start delving into the process of investigation. What does the breath feel like? Is it deep, expansive, free-flowing? Or stuck, shallow, caught in the throat? Does it flow effortlessly in and out through the nose, or is the body struggling to find the balance between inhale and exhale? Does the belly rise and fall with each breath, the side rib cage expand, or can you feel breath enter the back of the body? While at this initial stage of enquiry, there is no right or wrong breath, just observation of what is.

The breath does however tell the story of the nervous system.

When the breath is shallow, rapid and restricted, the nervous system has kicked into high gear and is telling the body it's in danger. Muscles are tense, blood flow is restricted to critical organs only, and the physical body is ready to either fight or run for its life. While we want the nervous system to move into this state of response when a real danger presents, the problem is that we're finding ourselves here more often, and for longer periods than necessary. When the body is in a chronic state of 'fight-flight' it's simply not focused on other crucial duties. We fail to digest and process nutrients from food, our immune system becomes suppressed, and sleep patterns disturbed.

Instead of explaining the ripple effect of devastation that living in this state creates in the body, I wanted to direct this message instead towards an action we can all take to instantly benefit our health and wellbeing. A very simple, yet powerful tool that we all have access to. A tool to turn on the parasympathetic (rest, repair, digest) branch of the nervous system.

The power of breath.

The most valuable way for you to experience the practice below is not by my words alone, but through your own physical body and knowing. So if you're in a position to practice this now, please do so — there's no time like the present. Otherwise come back to this when you have five minutes to yourself. 

Laying on the floor with your legs up the wall (a deeply restorative pose), or simply lying face-up on a bed or couch. Place one hand on your heart space and the other on your belly. Let the body breathe for you and just become the observer of how your physical body moves with each breath. Take note of your hands and their movement with each cycle of breath. Can you feel your hands moving? One of them or both? Or perhaps neither? Observe the nature of the breath — is it rapid or slow? Shallow or deep? Free-flowing or jagged? There's no right or wrong, you're simply observing.

Once you feel you've given enough attention to observing the natural flow of breath, then you can start to consciously change it. Spending the next 10+ breath cycles to gently slow the breath, deepen the breath... each breath easing the nervous system further into it's natural state of being. In this reclined position you're aiming to have the lower belly rise and fall with each breath, and eventually the side rib cage expand, pressing against the inside of your upper arms. Once you've reached this place, work to extend the length of the exhale, making it slightly longer than the inhale.

If this is as far as you want to go, then well done — you've allowed the body to feel safe, supported, and nurtured while gifting yourself a valuable moment of calm. If you want to carry on for another 5 or 10 minutes then wonderful, you can probably look forward to a more restful nights sleep tonight. If you do this practice just the once then bravo for sowing the seed. If this becomes a daily practice, then you'll enjoy the cumulative benefits this awareness of breath brings.

I explore this further with one-on-one offerings, but I wanted to share the above practice to show an example of a tool that is available to you at anytime, anywhere. Although not essential to breath work, you can bring the power of plant aromatics into your practice to support the nervous system and help to deepen the breath. Working with your chosen plant allies I'm here to create bespoke blends in a handy 1ml (27 drops) sampler size. While aroma brings it's own element of magic to this work, it's certainly not necessary as the breath alone is such a powerful tool.

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... and let me share the magic of plants with you x