When was the last time you paid any attention to your breath? If its been a while, try it right now. If you’re like most of us, your shoulders may be slightly tensed and elevated, or your breath halted and shallow. Fortunately, we don’t have to do any thinking in order to get enough air to survive, but could we be getting more from breathing than simply oxygen?
Tonight before retiring for sleep, sit down, turn off any distractions and pay attention to your breath. Draw in a long slow breath through your nose – filling your lungs completely. After a short pause, slowing let all the air out through your mouth. Pay attention that you are using your diaphragm, rather than your neck and chest muscles, to allow your lungs to expand. A simple way to ensure this is to place your hand over your belly. With each inhale, your belly should expand outward, while your shoulders and upper chest remain still.
As you repeat this process, keep your awareness inward on your body. Your shoulders should be relaxed and rolled back, with your back straight and head in line with your shoulders. You will notice your heart rate slowing, as the tension of the day melts away from head to toe.
In a very short time you will have literally altered the whole state of your mind and body. Your nervous system will be switching gears from sympathetic to parasympathetic tone – the state in which our bodies heal and repair.
This is a simple activity that you can perform anytime of day and in any location. It is a useful way to prepare for sleep or momentarily escape from the stress of the day. Try adding a few sessions of restful breathing into your day – I bet you will notice a difference.