Breathwork is a practice that we should do every day. Why? By taking the time to pause to recognize and to appreciate the breath, we can learn to sleep better, improve the body’s immune response and reduce stress. In the practice of yoga, breath work is necessary to breathe with conscious awareness, creating connections with our mind and body in order to prevent injury.
I invite you to practice the following exercise called “Box Breathing.” Inhale on a count of 4–3-2-1. Hold the breath 4-3-2-1. Exhale the breath 4-3-2-1. Hold the breath 4-3-2-1. Repeat this 3 times, and then allow the breath to come and go by itself. There is medical and scientific evidence to support the fact that by changing how we breathe, we can change how we think, feel, behave, and perform. James Nestor writes in Breath, The New Science of a Lost Ark, “the key to optimum breathing, and all health, endurance, and longevity benefits that come with it, is to practice fewer inhales and exhales in a smaller volume. To breathe, but to breathe less.”
Take the time to notice how we breathe when we are peaceful and calm, rather than when we breathe a different breath when we are angry, upset, or most significantly when stressed! Try to take the time each day to pause, recognize and appreciate the simplicity of your breath. Learn to breathe with intent, slowly and deeply through the nose. Anders Olsson uses the technique of Breath hold Walking to increase carbon dioxide and, thus, increase circulation in the body. Find some space in a park that creates a calmer energy for you where the ground is soft. Exhale all your breath, then walk slowly around counting each step. Once you feel a sense of air hunger, stop counting. Inhale a deeper breath than you would usually take. Pause, exhale the breath on a count of 5. Breathe normally for about one minute and then repeat the exercise 3 times.
In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, “Conscious breathing is the best way to stop and calm our anxiety, fear, and anger. You can always practice being fully aware of your breathing. This is essential to stop and come back to yourself.”