The practice that continues to save my life is conscious breathing.
Learning breathing techniques, breath control, or pranayama, as known in yoga, is what continues to release my shoulders from hugging the bottom of my ears and which is what happens when I let go of breath awareness for too long.
Practicing breath awareness is key, for me, to releasing anxiety, panic attacks, or worry inducing thought processes. The activity of focusing the mind on the breath, offers the mind a mini-vacation, gives it something to do rather than to fixate on past events, which encourages depression, or to fixate on the future, which induces anxiousness and fear, based thinking. Whereas focusing the mind in the present moment, through the use of the breath, one comes to feel a greater sense of peace in the mind and body.
When the mind is centered on the breath, and feeling body sensations, the mind and the body grows calm. The mind is said to be like that of a monkey, bouncing around in excitement, here and there, jumping from future to past thinking, only momentarily residing in the present moment.
When we practice breath awareness, and learn breathing techniques that work for our individual needs, it comes to be as equivalent to our getting an external body massage. The dis-ease in the body grows to know greater ease, thereby giving the individual a greater quality of life, days filled with more peace, and the more one implements a regular practice of “pranayama,” the more they are able to respond to the stressors in the world around us, rather than being more like animals and simply reacting.
We grow to know the value of pause, the subtle pause that exists in between each and every inhalation and exhalation. The awareness of this pause penetrates our day-to-day living, by our applying it to situations that arise, offering us an ability to have more skill within our actions that are filled with greater awareness and more breath. A good place to start is with a simple exercise on being present.
Just breathe and let the breath flow freely.
Relax and let the body soften.
Feel sensations in the body.
Observe your experience of the sensations without judgment.
Observe the breath, the rise and fall of it, without control of it.
Sit with breath awareness for three to five minutes, every morning upon waking and every night before sleep. Build up to 20 minutes, or stay practicing for three to five minutes daily. What is most beneficial is not how long one sits with breath awareness, but the frequency in which it is done. Every day for three to five minutes, is more beneficial than 20 minutes once a week.
Once we begin to cultivate a body, mind, and breath awareness practice, we truly come to see the value of pause in all areas of our lives and how simple an act of breathing in and out with conscious awareness, can carry us through some of life’s major storms, whether they be internal, or external ones when we learn how to just step back, and breathe.
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Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons
Photo: Courtesy of the editor