Last year, when I was working on going deeper into having a grateful perspective, I began to focus more on my breath. As I did this, I began to realize how important it was to focus on breathing to heal.
Breathing To Heal
The act of breathing is essential for sustaining life and has significant effects on both physical and mental health. Let’s just look at some of the ways breathing keeps us healthy (and alive!):
- Oxygenation: Deep and mindful breathing helps increase the oxygen levels in the body. Oxygen is essential for cellular function and energy production. Proper oxygenation supports the body’s natural healing processes.
- Stress Reduction: Deep, slow breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing stress. Chronic stress can have detrimental effects on the body’s ability to heal, so managing stress through mindful breathing can be beneficial.
- Pain Management: Focused breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing or guided imagery, can help manage pain by promoting relaxation and reducing tension in the body.
- Improved Sleep: Proper breathing techniques can contribute to better sleep quality. Sleep is a crucial time for the body to repair and regenerate, supporting the overall healing process.
- Enhanced Mental Health: Mindful breathing practices, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, are associated with improved mental well-being. This can be particularly relevant for conditions where mental and emotional factors play a role in the healing process.
- Immune System Support: While not a direct healing mechanism, reducing stress through mindful breathing may indirectly support the immune system. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections and recover from illnesses.
Finding the right approach that suits one’s needs and preferences is essential for incorporating breathing practices into our overall health and healing routine. Here are two practices I found useful.
#1 Pranayama Breathing
Pranayama is this really old breathing technique from yoga in India.
- Close your eyes.
- Bring your right hand to your forehead, and rest your index finger between your eyebrows.
- Close the right nostril with the right thumb.
- Inhale slowly through the left nostril.
- Remove your thumb from your right nostril.
- Use your ring and middle finger to close your left nostril.
- Exhale slowly and completely with the right nostril.
#2 Ten Breaths – Breathing in Beauty
This exercise is taken from the book, Ten Breaths to Happiness: Touching Life in its Fullness (Affiliate link)
When a beautiful moment presents itself and you encounter something you would like to savor, such as sunlight on a dewdrop:
- Stop whatever you are doing.
- Close your eyes, put your dominant hand on your belly, and begin to pay attention to your breathing. Notice the rise and fall of your hand on your belly as you breathe. Take three deep breaths to settle and clear your mind.
- When you feel more present, open your eyes and look at the object of your concentration. Take a deep, slow breath in and out. That is “one.”
- Continue counting each breath: “two,” “three,” “four.” Let your encounter unfold naturally. Just behold the object of your concentration and observe it without mental commentary or judgment as you count. Notice its color, shape, sound, or smell.
- While counting, become aware of your body and any sensations or emotions that may arise. Allow every cell of your body to open up to the encounter. Allow the experience to be as full as possible. Don’t hold back.
- When you have reached “10,” rest in the feeling of the moment. Then, if you’d like, take 10 more breaths in the same way.
The important thing in practicing 10 breaths is to get started and set your intention to keep on counting with your breath all the way to “10.” When you do this, you create new neural pathways that help anchor your habit of happiness.
I’ve learned that the simple act of using my breath mindfully can help me find balance, create a calm reality, bring change.
This is Day 29 of My 66-day Journey of Healing Through Writing and Sharing.