In late December, I committed myself to Breath: A 30-day Yoga Journey with Yoga by Adrienne. I started strong on January 2 and completed 4 days in a row. Then 2021 tried to outdo its 2020 cousin, and I took a hiatus to digest the national news and eat ice cream. Now I am back on track. I have completed 13 days. It is awful. She wants us to just sit and breathe deeply for hours on end (Fine. It’s actually 4 minutes. And there is yoga involved, too.). It is torture.
Sitting still, breathing, and focusing are not my superpowers. But, wow, is it good for me. My outer self may usually appear calm, but my mind races. And when my mind races and I feel stressed, my shoulders end up around my ears. Sitting up straight, breathing deeply, and trying to focus my thoughts is the most restorative and healing thing I do for myself.
I’m a breath holder. I don’t know why. I’ll be going about my day and I realize I’m holding my breath. That isn’t good considering the importance of breathing to, you know, staying alive.
According to health educator Emily Nagoski breathing deeply helps us regulate how our bodies process stress. The best way to train our bodies to do this effectively is to practice when we aren’t that stressed. Building up our deep breathing muscles allows us to tap into the practice when we are on high alert. In her book Burnout (co-authored with her twin sister, Amelia Nagoski) she explains, “A simple, practical exercise is to breathe in to a slow count of five, hold that breath for five, then exhale for a slow count of ten, and pause for another count of five. Do that three times – just one minute and fifteen seconds of breathing – and see how you feel.” (p. 15). I’ve been practicing deep breathing and GUESS WHAT?? It works! I find myself reacting to tense moments by instinctively taking deep breaths!! I can actually feel my body let go of the tension.
As you go about your day, take a minute and 15 seconds to take some deep breaths. Let me know how it makes you feel.