When you think about it, the breath is a pretty magical thing. We hardly ever think about it, but we use it every day, all the time, without even realizing it.
Breathing is one of those things that we take for granted, but when you really stop to think about it, breathing is pretty incredible.
Just think about all the things that the breath can do - it can help us stay calm and centered, it can give us energy when we're feeling tired, and it can even help us meditate.
So today, I want to talk a little bit more about the magic of breathing and how we can utilize the breath to improve our lives.
Ever wonder how your heart knows to keep pumping and your lungs know to keep breathing?
The answer lies in the autonomic nervous system, which controls all of the body's involuntary functions.
This includes regulating blood pressure and heart rate, keeping the digestive system running smoothly, sexual arousal, and ensuring that we sweat when we get too hot.
The autonomic nervous system is made up of two main parts: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
Quite shortly, the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the fight-or-flight (stress) response, while the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for rest and digestion.
Most of the time, these two systems are in balance.
However, during times of stress, the sympathetic nervous system can take over, leading to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
Most of the time, we don't give much thought to our breathing. It's an autonomous function, meaning it happens without us having to think about it.
But did you know that we actually have some control over our breath? It's true!
While we can't stop or hold our breath indefinitely, we can choose to consciously control it for short periods of time.
This is because the breath is semi-autonomous, meaning that while it's mostly controlled by the autonomic nervous system, we can also exert some conscious control over it.
The best part? This semi-autonomous function can help us gain passive control over other autonomous functions, like heart rate and blood pressure.
This is because certain types of breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system response, thereby decreasing heart rate and blood pressure, and bringing balance back into the entire body.
A Meditative State
The meditative state is often spoken about with a sense of reverence as if it's some ethereal goal that only the most disciplined among us can hope to achieve.
But what exactly is this meditative state, and how do we know if we've reached it?
According to some definitions, the meditative state is simply a state of mindfulness, characterized by an awareness of the present moment and a lack of judgment towards one's thoughts and feelings.
Others describe it as a heightened state of consciousness, in which the mind is perfectly still and focused.
There's no single answer to this question, but we know one thing for sure - the meditative state does bring about a sense of inner peace.
A state, in which the body is well-regulated from the inside out.
Now that we know more about the breath and how it can induce a balanced, meditative state, let us give you a simple 8-step breathing process, to achieve that same meditative state!
- Sit down in a quiet place (eliminate sensory stimuli as much as possible)
- Close your eyes and observe your thoughts
- Now, consciously shift your attention to your heart rate & your breath
- Observe them!
- Now, take a deep, slow breath for 5 seconds on the inhale
- Hold briefly for half a second, then slowly exhale for another 5 seconds
- Repeat, and as you do that, stay aware of your thoughts
- If any intrusive thoughts come by, simply choose not to latch onto them, and return your attention back to your breath and heart
If you’re looking to try something new, or are simply curious about the power of breathwork, we encourage you to give it a go.
It might just be the ticket to unlocking a whole new level of peace and tranquility in your life.
Have you ever tried breathwork? What was your experience like? Let's discuss!