A recent trip to the California desert allowed me to escape the winter smog my city is known for and bask in some beautiful sunshine. I found myself pausing often to take a deep breath. At times it felt as though the pristine blue sky itself entered my body with every inhale. "Feelings come and go like clouds on a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor." -Thich Nhat Hanh
Our breathing patterns generally reflect our emotions. A person feeling angry may exhale in short forceful breaths. Someone feeling sad or overwhelmed might sigh. A yawn suggests fatigue. When I felt tranquil in the desert my breathing was slow, long, and enjoyable. This peculiar connection between emotions and breath goes both ways of course. As we learn to control our breathing, we can also learn to control our emotions.
In an ideal world, you would be reading this post from an exquisite location with clean air and a relaxing energy. Chances are, however, you are settled in a chair at home or at work, huddled over a computer. Regular exposure to electronics without taking frequent breaks increases tension in the body. This tightness leads to stiffness and ultimately shallow breathing. After hours in front of a screen, who doesn't walk away feeling anxious or irritable?
Serenity can be just a breath away, however, with this quick yoga tip for instant stress relief. Try it now if you like. Lean back and interlace your fingers at the base of your skull, cradling your head in your hands. Spread the elbows wide and take a deep breath. Make it the biggest breath you've breathed all day, maybe even all week. Close your eyes and now take 4 more deep breaths.
Maybe the muscles in your shoulders relaxed. Maybe a tight spot in your chest released. Perhaps it triggered a yawn. Some of you may have smiled. This simple stretch combined with deep breaths noticeably affects the body and mind. Taking time to pause and breathe is one of the most effective ways to relax during a stressful day. We can't always control our environment or the stressful forces effecting our lives. We find peace and calm no matter where we are, however, when we manage our emotions with thoughtful breath.
"Breathing in I calm my body. Breathing out I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment." -Thich Nhat Hanh