B is for Breathe

just-breathe-beach-lgWould you like to add more balance to your life? Let me show you how. Simply remember the acronym B-A-L-A-N-C-E. In the next seven blog posts, I will share with you how to maintain a balanced life. This post begins with B is for Breathe.

“Just breathe.” “Take a deep breath.” You have heard these words of wisdom before. While breathing is a normal function of the human body, you are mostly unaware that it’s happening since it is controlled by your autonomic nervous system. Breathing occurs, on average, from 12 to 20 times per minute. That’s a lot of breathing. The benefit of breathing is to bring oxygen (good) into your body as you inhale and remove carbon dioxide (bad) from your body as you exhale. Oxygen in. Carbon dioxide out.

When you consciously focus on your breathing and extend that breath to your diaphragm (diaphragmatic breathing), it results in even greater health benefits, as illustrated in this¬†Harvard Medical School article. When you find yourself in a stressful situation, diaphragmatic breathing can help to calm you, release tension and get you in touch with your body. You may feel stress when you are doing any variety of day-to-day activities, like preparing for an important presentation, simultaneously juggling too many tasks or caring for everyone but yourself. If you have difficulty sleeping, take in a few deep breaths. With each breath, tell yourself, “I am relaxed.” “I am calm.”

Yoga practitioners master diaphragmatic breathing because it brings healing oxygen to major organs and muscles. To learn more about yoga diaphragmatic breathing, read Dr. Roger Cole’s detailed article,¬†Your Best Breath.

If you want to try something very simple that takes just a few minutes, consider alternate nostril breath or Nadi Shodhana with this short instruction from the Chopra Center.

The next time you feel stressed or out of control, tell yourself, “Just breathe.” Take a few minutes to practice diaphragmatic breathing. Slowly, gently breathe in vital oxygen and send its healing energy throughout your body. Exhale fully to release carbon dioxide. Add movement if you can. Take a short walk outside or simply walk down the hall, around the corner and back. You will clear your mind and feel refreshed.