Your breath is one of the only involuntary bodily functions that you can control. By taking control of something that usually operates on auto-pilot, you can use it as a tool to improve a variety of aspects of your life. Managing your breath with breathing exercises can:
- Relax or energize you
- Help you feel grounded
- Bring you into the present moment
- Decrease anxiety and increase a sense of calm
- Enable you to get to sleep quicker and sleep deeper
Your breath is a barometer to your state of mind—when your breath is erratic, your emotional, physical or mental state may be erratic also. When the breath is smooth and easy, so are you. Today, create a regular awareness of your breath patterns and try to continue to cultivate a breath pattern that is deep and full, which develops presence and awareness.
Try this exercise for controlling your breathing
Take a deep breath in for three, four, or more counts in, and then exhale at the same rate. Follow the breath like a wave coming in and out. Notice how the end of one breath becomes the beginning of the next. Repeat several rounds of breathing focusing on this and nothing else. (Try this exercise with your eyes closed. Where the eyes go, the mind usually follows.)
After controlling your breathing, take a few moments to reflect on how you feel. Acknowledge any changes in your physical, mental or emotional state of being.
Taking controlled, deep breaths brings you back into balance and resets your nervous system. You can feel if you’re taking deep or shallow breaths because your body uses different muscles. When you take a shallow breath, you only use 3 muscles and rely mostly on your diaphragm. You can feel the upper part of your chest get bigger with air. When you take a deep breath, you use 12 muscles, including your large chest muscles (upper and lower pectorals) and back muscles (latissimus dorsi). While taking a deep, full breath, notice how the rib cage expands not only from top to bottom, but also from front to back and side to side. You can practice taking fuller breaths throughout your day at any time, creating a greater awareness of your daily breath patterns. Soon you may notice you are breathing fully throughout the day, naturally.
If you liked this breathing exercise, try one of our guided 1.5-minute breathing exercises!