Breathing Easy

By September 1st, 2009

An excerpt from Chapter One of Kiss Your Monsters Goodbye by Cindy Ashton Going within and really facing ourselves—our thoughts, patterns, and behaviors—takes great courage. But if we are willing to, we can transform our lives long‐term and create miracles. Good breathing techniques are the key to deepening our consciousness and getting to know our bodies. In addition to helping us slow down enough to hear our thoughts and monsters (our fears), breath is the life force with the power to cleanse, nourish, relax, heal, and transform our world. The benefits of good breathing techniques include: The Relaxation Response When the exhalation is longer than the inhalation, we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. In turn, the heart rate slows down and blood pressure decreases. This relaxation response helps to slow and refocus us. Enhancing intuition and changing consciousness Many systems of Yoga are built on breathing techniques as breath is considered to be the entry between the mind and body. When we slow and focus our breathing, our thoughts and body become quiet. At those moments we move beyond our brain clutter—and peace and clarity can shine through. Once we stop long enough to hear the intuition (or the voice of God depending on beliefs), we become aware. Awareness propels change. Releasing toxins When we inhale, we take in oxygen, nourishing our cells with life. Upon exhaling, the wastes and toxins of carbon dioxide are released. If we are breathing incorrectly, the oxygen cannot reach all the cells to feed them and wastes cannot be dispelled from our bodies. Therefore, cells quickly die and create imbalance in our bodies, contributing to possible illness, disease, and overall lack of wellness. When we are off balance, our energy is lower, causing us to be more susceptible to our fears. Muscle relaxation When our body moves with ease and without constriction, we have more energy. With increased vitality, we feel good and are able to stay positive longer. But if we are uncomfortable in our bodies due to muscle tension, we get fatigued faster, lowering our defenses and allowing the monsters to creep in. Breathing into sore, tight muscles and then letting them go can decrease pain and increase mobility. Releasing stored emotions Unexpressed emotions such as anger or sadness stay in the body, once again creating imbalance and general unhappiness. If these things are not dealt with long‐term, illness will result. When we consciously breathe—noticing where the breath easily flows and where it is obstructed—we can start to assess where we hold our pain, why, and how. With this awareness, we can notice our feelings, which lead us to taking action towards deeper healing. Breathing Awareness Although we are breathing constantly, the majority of us fail to do it efficiently and effectively because it is an unconscious process. Therefore learning to breathe properly is essential. Healthy breathing is controlled by the diaphragm, a concave muscle running along the base of the ribs. When we inhale, the diaphragm pushes our internal organs down and flattens out causing our stomach to rise. Exhalation happens automatically. Place your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your stomach. When you inhale (take a breath in), which hand rises—the right hand for the chest region or the left hand for the stomach region? When you are breathing, count as you inhale and then starting at one again, count as you exhale. Is your inhale longer than your exhale? Exhale longer than your inhale? Inhale and exhale an equal number of counts? If you inhale longer than you exhale, you are taking in too much oxygen and not expelling it all, causing imbalance and stress on your body. If you exhale longer than you inhale, then you are stimulating a relaxation response, helping you to tune into your body. If your inhales and exhales are equal, you are maintaining healthy and balanced breathing for optimal, everyday functioning. When you are aware of your breathing, do you have a continuous, flowing cycle of inhales and exhales? Do you hold your breaths sometimes? If you hold breaths, it is an indication you are holding stress or fear in your body. Healthy breathing techniques Lie on your back. If you have back problems, place a pillow under your knees. Place your hands on your stomach, close your eyes, and just notice. Don’t try to take deep breaths yet. Once you feel the breath drop into your diaphragm, you should feel your hands rise up with the inhalation and down with the exhalation. Notice how your body feels so you can remember and duplicate the response at a later time. Once your belly rises and falls easily, start to breathe in more deeply. You will feel the stomach stretch. If you find the breath goes back up into the chest, repeat the process. Listening to your body Start by balancing your breath by breathing in for four counts then exhaling for four counts. Try not to hold your breath between cycles, keeping it flowing continuously. In order to tune into your body, you need to create a relaxation response. Start to exhale longer than you inhale by breathing in for four, exhaling out for six. After a minute or so, start inhaling in for four, exhaling out for eight. As you are breathing, you will be slowing down to the point where you begin to notice your thoughts and feelings. Simply observe what comes up without judgment and take note. Scan your body from head to toe, observing the areas of pain, discomfort, or tension. Again, there is no need for judgment, just observation. Imagine deeply breathing into those areas and then releasing the pain upon exhalation. Continue to breathe into those areas and release until you feel less discomfort. Imagine blowing out black smoke that gets eaten by a cloud of white light and floats away. Try to create other images for yourself and see what works best. Once you feel relaxed, refreshed, and ready to go, be sure to balance the breath (four in, four out). If you stand up too quickly without balancing, you may experience dizziness. Reflect The more you consciously breathe into your body and stimulate the relaxation response, the quicker you become at identifying your thoughts and feelings and noticing when your body (and those monsters) are speaking to you. If you have challenge or fear, or are resisting something that’s happening in your life, your body will hold pain, tension, and/or discomfort. Once you tune into where that lies within yourself and acknowledge it, you can begin to mentally ask “what is this pain I’m holding?” From there, you can begin to tackle the monster head on! And sometimes by just noticing, it will release the resistance. Ask yourself, “What thoughts, feelings, and images did I see while in the relaxation response? Where do I hold pain, discomfort, and tension? What insights about myself, or a particular situation, came up when I breathed into tense areas?” Now that you know the power of your breathing, get started and let’s change your life! Cindy Ashton, author of Kiss Your Monsters Goodbye, was recently featured in Performance Magazine alongside President Obama, Donald Trump and Tony Robbins. Having conquered life threatening chronic illness, she now empowers others to overcome their obstacles despite any odds against them. In presenting keynote speeches, interactive seminars and motivational concerts across North America, Cindy combines her extensive backgrounds in performing, education and kinesiology with her own real life experience. www.cindyashton.com / www.kissyourmonstersgoodbye.com

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 at 2:52 pm and is filed under Articles, Healthy Living. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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