The very first thing we take when we are born into this world is a breath – this is where we all begin our life journey. It stands alongside us like a constant companion, helping us sustain and thrive in our existence. Most of us though, take for granted how significant the breath is in our daily lives. We might not think at all about how we breathe – though we all know how it feels to be breathless or out of breath! Breath is life, where all movement of living things stem from. Without it, we cease to be alive.
Beyond it's sustaining function, the breath also mirrors what we are experiencing in our heads. If we feel relaxed, our breathing is relaxed. When we are anxious, our breathing also changes. Operating within the 'fight or flight' mode, the breath will speed up and tighten: to give us more oxygen to tackle the threat (perceived or real) that challenges our survival. However, if our stress response is continually triggered in our lives, we can lose our natural rhythm of full and easy breathing. This is detrimental to our well-being, as our bodies remain in constant tension.
Luckily, the nature of our breath is circular. Our feelings and emotions influence how we breathe, yet how we breathe can also influence our bodies and minds. By being aware of the breath, we can use it to help soothe us when we are experiencing emotional difficulties. This mindful practice, where we allow the breath to return to its natural, soft rhythm. Both body and mind are reassured that they are safe, thus begin to calm as the nervous system resets.
When the mind is calmed, it can be become more focused – being able to observe our thoughts instead of being caught amongst the drama our emotions can generate. With regular practice, our increased awareness will further cultivate our ability to self-soothe and heal. For all of us to breathe well, having awareness of our breath is key.