I have a friend with a cure for absolutely anything. Well, it’s actually her dad’s cure-all. And it’s grape juice. If she told him her stomach hurt when she was little, he’d give her a glass of grape juice. If she had a headache, grape juice to the rescue. If she was upset because someone teased her … “Let’s get you a glass of grape juice.” Minor burn from a Fourth of July sparkler … “Rub a little grape juice on it.”
To this day, a glass of grape juice can still raise her spirits.
Needless to say, grape juice is not actually a recommended treatment for most ailments, although there’s a lot to be said for the healing properties of love and attention from good ol’ dad.
But there is a proven remedy that works … on everybody … for every issue.
I know because I see clients who are looking for relief from a lot of different issues. I work with them to alleviate their anxiety and depression. We work through their anger. Build their confidence and repair their relationships. If necessary, we get them on a better career path or create a space for spirituality in their lives if it was lacking before.
And, after studying dozens of different healing and health systems from around the world, I’ve got hundreds of tools to address each of these issues.
But there is one thing that ALWAYS works, and even can be used to supercharge the potency of all the other tools ….
… I bet at this point you’re saying, “Tell us already Caitlin!”
It’s your breath. I know, it sounds too simple, too good to be true. But that’s why this universe is such a beautiful place; you already have everything you need to heal at your disposal—right inside of you.
The trick with breathing is that you’ve got to do it right. To breathe fully, with ease and attention.
See, the quality of your breath determines the quality of your mind. And the quality of your mind determines the quality of your life. So fully, easy, kind, attentive breathing leads to a full, easy, kind and attentive life.
Let me explain.
The benefits of breathing
Slow, attentive, and deep breathing is credited with all kinds of physiological health benefits, including:
- Stimulating brain growth
- Improving heart rate
- Lowering stress hormones
- Alleviating anxiety
- Lowering blood pressure
And, for centuries yogis have used breath control, or pranayama, to promote concentration and improve vitality.
So, if you regularly bring a calm, kind attention to your breath, you’ll be better situated to walk through the world cool as a cucumber … with confidence and ease, taking on any situation that gets thrown your way.
My experience with controlled breathing
Like most people, I started practicing pranayama for many of the benefits listed above. It helped tremendously during my own battles with anxiety and depression.
Now, I just love the practice itself. When I’m deeply connected to my breath, the sweet air sings beautiful lessons to my heart.
Lesson #1: Slow and steady wins the race
We so often make life too damn hard. Like our breath, it can ebb and flow easily and naturally, if we let it. But, if we push too hard and try to force it, it becomes difficult and labored.
For example, think about an exercise like running … sometimes you lose your breath and start panting. It becomes becomes painful until you slow down. When we push too hard in our workouts, it actually weakens us and inhibits our progress.
But when you keep your breath an even pace and flowing, you can go forever (well, almost forever).
It’s the same thing in life. Sometimes we want something so badly we push and scream and yell, and it only pushes what we want further away. We’d serve ourselves better if we went in a steady, slow and easy pace.
Take a cue from your breath, and let it be easy!
Lesson #2: We are connected to everything in the universe
When you feel alone and isolated, like nobody has your back, and you don’t have a friend in the world … know this is impossible. Even nature connects us all.
The trees are breathing in the CO2 you breathe out, turning it into precious oxygen and sending it back to you, supporting your life. And there are people all over the world protecting and tending to those trees. And all people share this flow of air. The air that filled your lungs a minute ago was breathed by another before you. You’re always connected to the larger network. You’re never alone.
Lesson #3 There are miracles everywhere
Breathing really is a miracle. It’s a gift we’re given at birth that stays with us to power us through life, and it comes with little to no effort. It’s actually harder to interrupt it than to let it flow through us.
Everytime we breathe in, it’s a reminder to be grateful for all of the magic that goes on around us that keeps us alive … like the rain watering our crops, and the fire that keeps us warm and cooks our food.
When life gets you down, always remember that among all of the things we have to be grateful for, our breath is like a magical elixir we get for free.
Lesson #4: We must take care of ourselves before we take care of others
Breathing is a constant reminder of self-care. Before we can create and send out that CO2 I was talking about to nourish the plants and trees, we first have to inhale oxygen so we can fuel a bunch of biological processes, including energizing every one of our cells.
Just like on an airplane, when they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask, should one fall from the ceiling and knock you on the head, before you help anyone else … in order to effectively take care of others, we first have to take care of ourselves.
Now, just breathe
So, you wanna get in on this breath bliss business?
There are a lot of variations of pranayam, and they all serve different purposes. Some cool you off, others heat you up, others cleanse particular organs, and others balance whacky energies. I encourage you to experiment with each.
The best place to start, I believe, for an everyday practice is Dirga Pranayama, or Three Part Breath.
- Get in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your abdomen relaxed. You can sit upright or lie down in a fully extended Corpse Pose
- Close your eyes and relax your face and body while breathing naturally through your nose.
- Place your left hand on your abdomen—a few inches below your belly button.
- Place your right hand on the outer right edge of your rib cage.
- Start to focus your awareness on your breath as it moves in and out of your nose through your body.
- As you inhale, feel your belly rise and expand, followed by your ribs
- As you exhale, feel the slight contraction of your ribs, followed by the drop of your belly.
- Exhale completely, pressing gently on your abdomen.
- Placing your left hand on the center of your chest, just below your collarbone.
- Now, as you inhale, breathe all the way into this area and allow your chest to rise slightly.
- Exhale completely.
- Continue this pattern of breath, and keep your awareness on the three-part movement—with an inhale, the belly lifts, the ribs expand, the chest rises. With an exhale, the chest drops, the ribs contract, the belly lowers.
- Continue at your own pace for up to five minutes, or for as long as you feel comfortable
This is a simple practice that will do wonders for absolutely anything that ails you.
Do you incorporate focused breathing into your self-care or healing? If so, share how it has helped you in the comments below.
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