Whatever goes on in our lives and wherever we are, there is always one thing that is available to us.
Our breath. It is with us right from the first breath we ever take when we are born.
It keeps us alive and it can make us feel good or bad, mentally and physically – and most often we do not realise that our breathing has this effect.
The mere act of changing our breathing can significantly change what our nervous system is doing.
Our inbreath activates the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response), whereas our outbreath activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest response).
In the Western world, many people are in a constant stress mode, basically living in the fight or flight response during their waking hours.
They are breathing somewhat shallow from the chest mainly and with short inbreaths and outbreaths. This is not a healthy or pleasant way to live in the long run.
If you have ever watched a baby up close, you will see that they naturally breathe all the way from their bellies, and that is what we should aim to do.
If you meditate regularly, you will know what I am talking about. But even if you are not a regular meditator, you can easily reap the benefits of breath control (Prânâyâma in Sanskrit – the ancient language of India).
You just concentrate on your breath when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
Ideally, we want to keep our inbreath and outbreath equally long. To activate our rest and digest response, we can keep our outbreath longer than the inbreath.
It will decrease the blood pressure and heart rate and relax your muscles and mind. It can change the way you feel very quickly.
Here’s how you do it: In a comfortable seated position, take five minutes where you count your breath. Concentrate on breathing from the belly and keep your back straight. You count to four on the inhale and count to six on the exhale. Breathe through the nose with your mouth closed, if possible. The nostrils filter, warm, and humidify air in a way that the mouth cannot do. If you start feeling light-headed with the 4:6 breathing, just return to normal breathing. At first, a longer outbreath can perhaps seem a bit challenging, but it is all about practice and you will get used to it.
There are many other breathing techniques, and this is just one of them that you can easily put into practice at any moment of your day (or night if you have problems sleeping).
You can use this technique at work, in the doctor’s waiting room, during an exam, etc. And you do not have to be sitting down.
Breath is simply nature’s medicine, and it is always available to us.
Just do it – take your medicine.