“To live is not merely to breathe; it is to act; it is to make use of our organs, senses, faculties – of all those parts of ourselves which give us the feeling of existence”
                                                                     ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Take a deep breath.  Right now.

No, really.

Now another.  And just one more.

Believe it or not, most of us spend a lot more time holding our breath than you might think.

Crazy, right?  I mean we’ve been breathing our whole lives.  Except when we’re totally congested or maybe unexpectedly underwater.  Yet we rarely stop and think about how we breath or even how shallow our breathing might be.

This past weekend I attended a yoga-slash-breathing class for finding your true voice.  Considering I’m someone that quite frequently holds my breath or runs out of breath when I’m teaching or speaking and am on a roll, I figured I’d try it.

While I can’t say it was what I expected (to be honest, I didn’t really have any set expectation other than I’d be surrounded by actresses and singers), but it was cool.  And I did learn a few things.

Most importantly…I am much more aware of my breathing and the many occasions and situations when I’m more likely hold my breath (like as I proofread this now).

Did you know that we often hold our breath when we’re in transition?  

We hold our breath when we wait for someone to answer the phone.  We tend to hold our breath as we change the channels.  We even hold our breath as we wait for our cars to turn over.  And let’s not forget all those times we hold are breath as we hit “send” or “update” on all our social networks and emails.

That’s a lot of time holding breath.

But when you find the time to sit quietly and become more aware of your breath, it helps you to engage more fully in life. You’re no longer responding and reacting to whatever comes at you. You’re in a calmer, more zen (there, I said it) space.  Which means there’s less of a tendency to react, and more of a tendency to pause and breath, and yes, think, before you respond.

I’ve learned two very simple breathing exercises that can help de-stress and calm you down in the moment.  And while both might have fancy schmancy names, I have no idea what those names might be.

Alternating Nostrils – I learned about this one during my first ever yoga class about 15 years ago.  Basically, using your index finger you block one nostril on the inhale (make it a deeeeep inhale) and then you block the other nostril on the exhale.  Do this about 10 times and I promise you’ll feel much mellower.

Alternating Nose-Mouth Breathing – This is a combination of every yoga, meditation and breathing exercise I think I’ve ever heard…and super simple.  Basically take a deep breath through your nose and then you exhale through your mouth.  See, super simple.

I like to add in a couple of words or phrases when I do this – especially since I often do this as I’m trying to fall asleep.  This can be as simple as “peace” on the inhale and “relaxation” on the exhale.  Or “love” and “forgiveness”.  Last night I was working on “I easily and effortlessly” on the inhale “let go and release” on the exhale (works great for letting go of all that crap in your brain as you fall asleep).

Yes, both of these breathing exercises take a little work.  It’s simple work, but it’s still work.  

We’re changing up your natural breathing patterns.  It might be a smidge uncomfortable (or less comfortable and not quite as natural), but that’s part of the awareness and the moving away from reacting.  Where not just working on our much needed deep breaths, but we’re also working on changing our focus from the outside and turning it to our inside.

Play around with it and see what works with.  I think you’ll notice a big improvement in your day to day activities when you stop to take a couple deep breaths before, during or even after starting new tasks.

If you’d like some more breathing exercises or some guided meditations that might help you further, drop me a note and I’ll send you some resources to check out.

ACTION PLAN: Take 30 seconds and take some deep inhales and exhales. You’ll notice a change immediately.