That's right... notice how easily your whole body balances just by taking a single breath.
The breath is like a wave. Far from the shore a wave begins to form... inhale... From the depths, a powerful, surging contraction forms and curls, expanding and expanding, then cresting, curling and finally... exhale... it crashes back to shore, dissolving into bubbles and spray as it begins to draw back for its long journey out to sea again... inhale.
A single breath is a complete cycle unto itself, self-perpetuating and constant. It is our life. It is the first thing we do when we come into form; it is the last thing we do as we leave it. We don't have to try to breathe; it is automatic.
Watch a baby breathe. You'll see her belly expand as she inhales and collapse as she exhales. Now check yourself. When you inhale, what is your belly doing? It should be expanding as you inhale, just like the baby's. Very often, what you'll find is that the belly is contracting as you inhale. This is a literal reversal of the use of the diaphragm, or what I call a stressed-breath. Try it both ways. Feel the difference. Sometimes the body becomes so tense it reverses the breath even while sleeping. This can lead to insomnia and other problems.
It hasn't helped that women have been taught to hold their stomachs in so that they will look slimmer. What they have done is effectively cut themselves off from their power. The abdominal region of the body is the main center for chi in the body. This is our primal energy and our very life force.
Get in the habit of checking in with the breath often. This single habit will powerfully affect your stress level. Just by taking a deep, conscious breath you can bring your stress level down. By taking a deep breath you are choosing to stay in the moment, to stay healthily connected to the emotions at hand, and courageously deal with them -- at that time. There's no moment like this moment to deal with stress. Stress is just the body's way of letting you know that it is in disharmony in some way. The word disease says it all: dis-ease. You see?
By consciously breathing you are intentionally reconnecting to your strength, your vitality, and your self-identity. You breath becomes your ally, not the enemy. It is not something to be avoided, suppressed, or held. By recognizing that you are stressed you can stay more current with your emotions and your psychological condition. It's like having your own inner Geiger counter that incrementally and precisely measures your inner state.
Stress simply indicates there is something wrong. When you feel tense, ask yourself, "What's wrong? Am I feeling hurt? Am I feeling out of control? Am I feeling misunderstood?" In any situation you can think of, the breath will guide you to a happier, healthier life.
AND IF YOU WANT TO GET TECHNICAL
Breathing correctly means taking deep, rhythmic and complete breaths. The whole of the lungs fill, from top to bottom. As the lungs expand for the inhalation, the belly rounds outward. The lungs expand and contract by way of the intercostal muscles that lie between the ribs, which work like an accordion. The more you inhale the more the ribs expand. When we inhale, the diaphragm contracts or flattens out and is drawn downward while the intercostal muscles expand, making more space in the lungs. This reduces air pressure creating a vacuum. This vacuum effect brings air from outside in, filling the lungs. Finally, the upper chest expands as you bring the breath higher and higher into the upper lungs.
Then the inevitable exhalation begins. The diaphragm begins to return to a passive, resting state as the air in the lungs is pushed out. The more you exhale the more carbon dioxide is released. During the exhalation, think of the diaphragm rising upwards. The more it rises up the more air is expelled.
Breathing is a metaphor for life. The inhalation can also be referred to as inspiration, the exhalation as expiration. The process of conscious breathing teaches us the flow of life: of birth and death, of union and detachment, of receiving and letting go, and to realize that this is all part of the natural flow. Our breath is that constant reminder.
And like the swell of a wave, our aspirational breath crests to its zenith, where then it must inevitably surrender and fall back into ourselves, and reconnect with that well of knowing that is within each of us. This gives us the heart, and the inspiration, and the courage to create again -- to literally recreate in another breath, another day, and another opportunity to learn to be free.
Let yourself breathe deeply, consciously and lovingly. Let every breath affirm you. Take life in hugely. Let it go utterly. Live large. And let this next breath open up your world!
Diana Lang is a spiritual teacher and author of
OPENING TO MEDITATION -- www.DianaLang.com
HuffPost's GPS for the Soul app is based on two truths about human beings. First: We all have a centered place of wisdom, harmony and balance within us. Second: We're all going to veer away from that place, again and again and again. What we need is a great course-correcting mechanism -- a GPS for the Soul -- to help us find our way back to that centered place, from which everything is possible.
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