You Need To Be More Mindful Of Your Breathing

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

When infants breathe, their stomachs rise and fall as the air circuits their system.

Eventually, the child will unlearn this natural mode of breathing. Breathing is unconscious. Even when I choose to be conscious of my breath, I recognise that it is involuntary.

Because I have never been taught how to breathe properly, my breathing pattern has ultimately come to match my environment. We all live in a fast paced, anxious and hurried world where there is never a moment for reflection. Sadly, over time, my breathing had come to embody this.

My breaths seem to sit in my upper chest, never flowing throughout my body.

I breathed through my mouth, taking in small sips of air that would get trapped just below the throat.

Often, I did not breathe at all, but instead held onto my breath as if I was trying control or stop something; the exhale only came once I realised I was drowning myself.

People no longer breathe diaphragmatically. There is a fatal misconception that we only breathe with our lungs when actually our whole body does the work of breathing.

This is a shame because it means that nobody ever allows themselves to be grounded.

In the past, I have, on some level, been constantly fearful, stressed and anxious — and for good reason too. This is because I had been breathing into the panic receptors that reside in the upper chest and throat.

For instance, when I am feeling frightened or angry, I have noticed how my breath becomes hasty, short and hectic. Well, this is how I had been breathing in normal circumstances, only it is not was significant as when I am under the influence of adrenaline.

“At this moment, you are seamlessly flowing with the cosmos. There is no difference between your breathing and the breathing of the rain forest, between your bloodstream and the world’s rivers, between your bones and the chalk cliffs of Dover.”

― Deepak Chopra, The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life

I think of breathing in the same way as I think of water. Water is necessary for life and if you do not drink enough you will notice how your body slows down. The same is equally true for oxygen.

Over the past year, I have succeeded in becoming more mindful of my breathing patterns and I have noticed the changes in my body when I alter the rhythm of my breath.

Recently, I have made an active effort to breathe in through my nose and allow the air to fill my stomach. I vision the air drawing towards the bottom of my spine or my hip. I breathe in lightly with courtesy to the walls of my nostrils.

Also, I have learned to relax the muscles in my stomach and chest and to ease my mind from a stressful day in order to allow myself to breathe lightly.

“As you breathe in, cherish yourself. As you breathe out, cherish all Beings.”

― Dalai Lama XIV

Breathing is both voluntary and involuntary and it is the purpose of meditation to discover that they are the same — I will write more on this some other time.

When I first tried to improve my breathing, I began by being more mindful of my breathing during the day and then gradually introducing some of the ideas that I have spoken about above.

Remaining peaceful and collected should be a priority in everybody’s life (it certainly is in my life), though it is not always achievable in this day and age. However, an awareness of the importance of breathing will be the first step forward in achieving a calm mind. I will continue to move forward with this in mind.

“Your breathing should flow gracefully, like a river, like a water snake crossing the water, and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse. To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds. Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

Thank you for reading.

H.J. Stead