Breathing oxygenates the blood, carrying vital life force to the body. So, by focusing our conscious mind’s attention on the breath, we are focusing attention on an essential life sustaining activity that is actually being controlled by our subconscious. The conscious and subconscious are connecting when focused on the breath and we are drawing the mind’s eye away from the mostly-useless thoughts of the “monkey mind”. Thoughts will still arise spontaneously, however the volume of these voices are diminished over time and with practice. Eventually, we can learn to become an observer of thoughts in order to disassociate with the limiting beliefs and even replace them with positive thoughts that serve our greater good. Using breathing techniques to focus trains the mind like an athlete trains the body. Focusing the mind is a skill that will serve us in visualizations, positive thinking, and all other aspects of life. The beauty of breathing techniques is they work very quickly and can be done almost anywhere. Don’t be shy. I do it all the time in public and it is rare that anyone even notices. If they do, the benefits are well worth a curious stare. If everyone would just do this throughout the day, we would feel better, get all along with each other much better and be more healthy. Go ahead and start a trend in your office or at home! They will thank you later.
OK, here is how I get quiet and, sometimes, to release anxiety or shift a mood. First, close the eyes, straighten the back, and take a deep breath in through the nose. Then, let it out with a long, audible sigh. Breathe from the diaphragm and stomach, not the chest.
Try it now and see how it feels. Close your eyes and practice this deep breathing technique. Take your time and feel the body relax. Deep breath in . . . . . and let it out with a loud sigh.
Now, do it three more times, and keep the eyes closed afterward. Let the breath return to normal, quietly breathing in and out through the nose.
How did that feel? Notice how the body relaxes and the mind begins to slow down. Now, take two more deep breaths and let them out with a long, audible sigh. Settle into this feeling and try practicing four-sided breathing.
Another very effective breathing technique to use after the deep sighs is “four-sided” or “quadrangular” breathing. This technique promotes balance as well as quieting the mind.
First, breathe in through the nose to the count of four, then hold the breath for a count of four. Exhale the breath for a count of four, holding the breath after the exhale for a count of four. Repeat this inhale, pause, exhale, pause process at least four times and notice how the mind quiets further. Count at a pace that feels comfortable to you. You may want to increase the count to 5, then 6, or longer. Play with it and see what works for you. A variation of this is “triangular” breathing, in which there is no pause between the exhale and inhale. Triangular breathing is great for very slow, deep breathing sessions when the breath is really being extended. Try this technique for 5 minutes or longer and really play with the duration of the breaths. Notice the shifts that occur in your body and emotions throughout the session. Notice how you feel before and after as well.
In and of itself, the peace and sense of well-being that exists when the mind is silent is well-worth the price of admission. When we add the components of awareness techniques, visualization and working with the language of the mind to create positive thoughts and the life we want, we have the recipe for an amazing 5-star feast. I will address all these topics and more in future Think Positive Apparel blogs.