JourneyDance and Warrior Goddess Facilitator Kelly Stanley Thomke describes being in a class where the participants were told, “Don’t forget to breathe!”
It got her thinking.
“I thought, if I heard that anywhere else besides a movement class, I’d think that was the most absurd thing I’d ever heard. Who would ever forget to breathe?? It’s automatic from the moment you enter the world. It took me a little while to realize that directive was meant as a nudge to be mindful of my breathing. What? Mindful of my breathing? What does that even mean?”
For Kelly, it meant really paying attention to her breathing: “Is it shallow? Is it so deep that it fills my belly? Is it heavy or rapid? Am I breathing through my mouth or nose? Am I breathing in time with the person next to me? Is my breathing silent or am I making some sort of breathing sounds? Full disclosure, when I sleep I am not paying attention to my breathing sounds. Am I holding my breath? I’ve actually caught myself holding my breath during a really intense part of a movie; didn’t realize I was doing it until I felt a really deep breath in.”
Don’t forget to breathe.
What does that mean to you? What things might change if you paid attention to your breathing? According to massage therapist and yoga teacher Brenda Gober, a lot might change. “Conscious thought and breathing practices are a great way to help alleviate the mental and physical stress that our bodies endure on a daily basis,” she says, “ Increased oxygen can help regenerate the body’s cells, enhance well-being and aid healing. Breath connects the mind and body.”
That’s a huge impact for something we need to be reminded to do!
One of the reasons we need to be reminded is that breathing is a function of the autonomic nervous system. Massage therapist Lisa Franklin explains: “It’s the part of the nervous system that regulates your body functions that are done automatically, without your conscious thought. Things like making your heart beat, secreting the digestive enzymes after a meal, moving your muscles without a thought… and breathing. Breathing is something we do without thought. So, it is generally an underappreciated function of the body that we can’t live without.”
Unlike other automatic functions, however, breathing is also something that we can control. And as it turns out, it would behoove us to do so. “By being more efficient in your breathing you will find yourself more alert, less tired, refreshed and increased energy,” says athletic trainer and massage therapist Stacy Ford.
OK, so we get it. Breathing doesn’t just keep us alive--it keeps us lively!
So the question becomes, how do we breathe better? Reflexologist and Reiki practitioner and teacher Tracy McGovern shares some ideas:
“Use breathing as a tool. Make breathing, true deep breathing, a habit. Every time you brush your teeth, stop when you’re done and take three long slow deep breaths. Before you get out of bed and as you get into bed do the same. It’s also a wonderful practice while you’re driving (with your eyes open of course), before and after you eat….when you turn your computer on or off. You get the idea.”
Breathing is free, easy, and brings remarkable benefits to your body, mood, and mind.
We’ll be breathing a lot deeper, and a lot more purposefully this week. We hope you join us! Stay tuned throughout the week for tips on breathing exercises, fun facts, and inspiration--and don’t forget to share your own stories, ideas, and tips with us by tagging us at #chronicwellness and #cwquakertown.