Playing with the Breath
"You breathe, Frosting mountains white,
Exciting trees to verdant flame,
To release stress, you too can play with your breath. Most people, when told to focus on breathing, try to take a deep inhale, straining to get more air in. The way to truly get a deep breath is to first let the old air out.
Right now, exhale as long as you can. Keep exhaling, through your relaxed mouth, making a slight “ha” sound. Squeeze your belly a little at the end to get out all the air. Then just allow yourself to inhale. Don’t “try” to take in a lot of air. Your lungs are programmed to take in as much air as they can. It’s the exhale – the HA – you need to focus on consciously.
Continue two more times, exhaling as long as you can, and then allowing good, fresh air to fill your lungs. Notice feeling more relaxed after just three breaths.
Now that you’re warmed up, you can practice breath holding. Exhale for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts, inhale for 5 counts, hold for 5, and repeat. Play with increasing or decreasing the length of time you exhale, inhale and hold.
Notice when you hold your breath you might feel an irresistible urge to smile. Don’t resist – smile! Feel how good it feels.
You can play with your breath whenever you think of it. Good times to practice are when you are waiting:
at the computer
in traffic jams
at stop signals
The best time to practice exhaling is when you are in a stressful situation. If you’re having a tense discussion with a colleague or loved one, start paying attention to your breath while you listen. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next – just listen and breathe. You might be surprised at what happens next.
Keep playing with your breath ... for the rest of your life!