Share on FacebookGoogle+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail to someoneshare on Tumblr

“To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds.” -Thich Nhat Hanh.

Do you know we take anywhere between 5,000 to 30,000 breaths per day? Our breath is something we (sometimes) take for granted. And yet, it holds great power and mystery. It, literally, keeps us alive.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the United States, a respiratory control centre at the base of your brain controls your breathing. “The centre sends ongoing signals down your spine and to the muscles involved in breathing.” It works with a series of other sensors in your brain, blood vessels, muscles and lungs in order to adjust your breathing to changing needs, such as physical exercise or emotional stress.

Many traditions, however, teach us that the breath is much more than a series of signals and physiological responses. It is a key to vitality and longevity—to maintaining a sense of balance in our physical and psychological well-being. It’s quite amazing, because the breath is the only part of the autonomic nervous system that we can consciously control. (Hint: this is a big deal).

It can be very useful, balancing, and healing to learn and practice certain breathing techniques. Here are three you can do, depending on what you need at the time you practice.

  1. Do you need to release stress?
    Exercise: Rhythmic Abdominal Breathing 

How to do it: Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Inhale for seven slow counts. Hold for one count. Exhale for seven slow counts. Hold for one counts. Continue for about 3-5 minutes.

Important: Ensure your abdomen (as well as your chest) is involved in your breathing. When you inhale, the belly should fill up with air, moving away from the spine. At the end of the exhale, pull your belly in towards the spine slightly.

  1. Do you need balance?
    Exercise: Nadi Shodhana or Balancing Breath

How to do it: Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight.

  • Find the correct hand position. Take the first two fingers of your right hand (the pointer and middle finger) and bend them in to the palm of your hand.
  • Using the right hand, place your ring finger on the left nostril to completely block the air passage on the left side.
  • Inhale through your right nostril.
  • Block the right nostril with your thumb, and exhale through the left nostril.
  • Keeping the right nostril blocked, inhale through the left nostril.
  • Block the left nostril with your ring finger, and exhale through the right nostril.
  • Repeat the sequence above and continue (always switching nostrils at the top on your inhalation only).

Important: Do not exceed more than 7 cycles of this breath as you begin. One cycle is inhaling right; exhaling left; inhaling left; exhaling right.

  1. Do you need more clarity or energy?
    Exercise : Three-Part Breathing

How to do it: Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight.

  • You will inhale the breath in three-equal parts (Inhale one-third of the way and pause. Inhale two-thirds of the way and pause. Then inhale the rest of the way and pause.)
  • Exhale one smooth, slow, continuous breath out

Continue for 3-5 minutes. Inhale in three equal parts, pausing between each part. Exhale one slow breath out.

This post is also available in: Dutch Spanish French German Swedish

Leave a Comment

Error: Please check your entries!