5 Free Gifts of Life – Breathing

Get the most out of your life for free! These five gifts of life are the cornerstones to health and happiness. Are you using them already? Create balance in your daily life by making time to re-energise. So very much of our attention goes things outside of ourselves, we forget true vitality is internally generated.

Freedom

1. BREATHING

It costs you nothing and the more aware you are of using this natural gift of life the more you can enhance your health and wellbeing.

Controlling and regulating your breathing is a simple way to achieve a relaxed and clear state of mind. The breathing exercises below can help you to relax and reduce stress.

The Energising Breath (Bellows Breath)

Based on a yogic breathing technique, its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness.

  • Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed and relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be as short as possible and equal in duration.
  • Take three in and three out breath cycles per second. This creates a quick movement of the diaphragm. Breathe normally after each cycle.
  • Do not do this exercise for more than 15 seconds on your first attempt. Increase the length of your practice slowly until you reach a whole minute.
  • This is quite a noisy breathing exercise.

When done correctly you may feel a similar level of heightened awareness as you can feel after a decent exercise session. Next time you need an energy boost and feel yourself reaching for a cup of coffee try this breathing exercise.

The Calming Breath (4-7-8)

This simple exercise can be done anywhere and in any position. When you are learning it however it is best to sit with your back straight. Put the tip of your tongue on the top of your mouth directly behind your top front teeth and exhale through your mouth around your tongue.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth making a ‘Haaaa’ sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a silent count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth making a ‘Haaaa’ sound to a count of eight.
  • This is counted as one breath. Inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. As you get more comfortable with this technique you can slow it all down, inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

This practice is a natural sedative for the nervous system. The more you practice it the more your body learns what to do and will trigger the sense of calmness more swiftly. Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too often. Do not exceed more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. After this first month of practice you can extend it to eight breaths. You may feel lightheaded when you first start to breathe this way. Don’t worry it will pass.
Use this practice whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you can feel internal tension. It is also useful to help you fall asleep.

Breath Counting

This simple Zen practice can be used as a form of mediation. Try to do it for 10 minutes!
Sit comfortably with your spine straight and head tilted slightly forward so that you can breathe easily. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Watch the breath come naturally in and out without trying to influence it. Ideally it will be quiet and slow.

  • Start by counting “one” to yourself as you exhale. Breath out.
  • Breath in again and count “two” and continue up to “five.”
  • Then begin a “new” cycle, counting “one” on the next in breath.

Do not count higher than “five” and count only when you exhale. Try to stay focused. You will know your attention has wandered when you find yourself counting up to “nine” “thirteen” or even higher!