Conscious breathing reduces stress, enhances focus

In my post, 5 steps to align with your body, mind and soul, step 1 is to just breathe. Taking five to 20 minutes per day (ideally to start your day) to consciously focus on your breath reduces stress in your mind and body and helps enhance your focus. You’ll also feel more energized, have more vitality and better health.

About 15 years ago, I was experiencing some health issues – digestive issues, anxiety, burnout symptoms — that sent me to see a naturopath. For the first several sessions, we focused on breath work. I thought I was breathing! I did yoga a couple times a week, so of course I was breathing. I noticed my symptoms were reduced right after a yoga class, but then the next day they were all back. I was back to not breathing fully.

You’re thinking, “I’m breathing, or I’d be dead.” Sort of true, I’d argue when you’re not full breathing you’re depriving yourself of oxygen and lifeforce (called prana or chi), so your brain, cells and organs can’t fully function. Your immune system can become weakened.

By fully breathing, you’re increasing the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream and feeding all your cells and organs to keep them healthy – to keep all of YOU healthy.

Focused breathing calms your body and mind.

For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth. ~Sanskrit Proverb

By not breathing fully you may be keeping your body in fight, flight or freeze mode. Your body is on high alert and your brain becomes hypervigilant, and the stress, worry, anxiety you feel goes up. Maybe it becomes chronic stress because your sympathetic nervous system is always on. When your fight-or-flight system is switched to on, your rest and digest system shuts off – your body can’t do both. You may feel agitated, anxious and, well, ON. This why sleep and digestive issues arise when you’re always stressed.

Have you ever watched a baby breathe? They breathe with their whole body, which is our innate, natural state.

Bring in the breath practice!

Yogis have been practicing breathing (called pranayama) for thousands of years. Science is just starting to catch up.

To help you get started with a stress-reducing, rejuvenating breath practice, check out my Just Breathe video series on IGTV, YouTube or Facebook, where I post a weekly, five-minute breath reminder with tips.

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