Breath is life. We breathe in and out every few seconds of our entire existence. Mostly it is an unconscious action for our body, however, a multitude of studies have shown that breathing consciously increases overall health and satisfaction with every aspect of our lives. I’m grateful that this is such a current topic of well-being and that more people have come to know the benefits of being aware of the breath as it flows into our body and releases. Aside from the religious and meditative practices of controlled breathing, it is well known that laboring women and athletes use different techniques to manage pain and increase stamina.
We have created a short video that features my favorite mindful breathing exercises. You can practice these with us in under five minutes.
It was a calm, crisp morning. The clouds were low in the sky and the air was fresh with the scent of fall pine trees. My good friend, colleague and co-author of these blog posts, Kim Logan, sat across from me in the canoe as the videographer. Spending this quiet time together, away from our computers, was a highlight to end the summer season.
Our video covers three different exercises. The following are additional details on each one.
1. Mantra Breathing
Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my favorite humans, partially because I was fortunate to spend a week at Plum Village in France a few years ago. His famous mantra to repeat is “Breathing in, I am that aware I am breathing in” and then “Breathing out, I am aware that I am breathing out”. Mentally repeating these two lines with your in and out breath naturally extends the inhales and exhales. Being aware of your breath filling your entire lungs; lower belly, chest and throat, will bring you into the present moment. This is my go-to exercise on a daily basis and especially when I am in a grateful frame of mind.
Learn more about Mantra Breathing.
2. Box Breathing
I love the visualization concept behind this technique and the control it can bring into your life. Counting to three, five or longer for each segment of your breath as you inhale, hold, exhale and hold can help you to refocus. Drawing a box in my mind’s eye keeps me grounded and centered. I find this most useful when I am frazzled and overwhelmed and just a few ‘boxes’ can bring calm back to my life - and yours as well.
Learn more about Box Breathing techniques and benefits.
3. Alternate Nostril Breathing
This one is fun and will make your soul smile. Hold your right nostril closed while you breathe in through your left, then close your left nostril while you exhale and then inhale through your right. This alternating action with your fingers closing your nostrils brings the whole body into the breathing exercise. When you find yourself lost in the monkey mind of non-stop thoughts, this technique can bring your whole body back into sync.
Learn more about this technique.
If you have five, ten, 20 minutes or more on a daily basis, I invite you to try these exercises or search for different ones that work for you. Just as our muscles require different physical exercises to be trained, we can incorporate different breathing exercises into our lives to reap the benefits in different situations and moods.
Lake Louise is thawing quickly and we are excited to get back into a canoe and paddle the turquoise glacier waters. We hope you can join us for a mindful canoe this summer!