Saturday, April 2, 2011

"INSPIRATION"— The Art of Breathing

by Michele Ogilvie, MFA CMT

EACH DAY we breathe about 20,000 times. Most of us take this action for granted; however, the quality of our breath is a very important component to our overall health and wellbeing.

The primary muscle responsible for moving breath is the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a domelike muscle that sits above the lungs. Although breathing is most often considered an involuntary action, this muscle and the power of our mind gives it the potential to function voluntarily. Through conscious breathing the diaphragm and lungs can grow strong and help support our path to healing.

Inhalation + Pause + Exhalation: In order to learn to work with the breath consciously and effectively it is important to see the breath as three parts: the inhalation (inspiration), the pause and the exhalation (expiration). A generous inhalation is supplying oxygen to our blood, providing energy to the brain, organs and muscles. Body cells not only need this for energy and growth, but also emotional and physical health. Without oxygen, the body's cells would die. The pause allows the oxygen to percolate and produce a sense of rhythm and calm. The exhalation releases carbon dioxide and toxic gases as waste. Practicing to make the duration of your inhales equal to your exhales (with a second or two pause in between) is a simple way to start becoming acquainted with voluntary breathing. Try counting it out until it begins to feel natural: Inhale: 1, 2, 3; pause: 1, 2; exhale: 1, 2, 3; repeat.

One’s breath can become shallow for many reasons. Stress, emotional trauma, and illness are some of the biggest obstacles. Most of our lives are terribly fast paced and overflowing with responsibility. At times it feels as though we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders and thus our body’s recoil, our shoulders round forward and our lungs and diaphragm cave in. In this posture and circumstance it is very difficult to establish a healthy breath cycle.

Meditation, Yoga, Massage and Bodywork are excellent ways to help reestablish the breath. These practices offer space to slow down and actually listen to what’s going on in our complex body/minds. Taking time out in your busy day to experience first hand the healing potential of relaxing into a rhythmic breath cycle is one of the most basic, yet important tools to managing stress you can give yourself. Remember ‘Inhalation’ means ‘Inspiration’ —so take time out to breathe into the potential of your heART!—©Michele Ogilvie