Take A Breath
We all breathe; it is a function of living.
In yoga, we practice specific breathing patterns. They are as integral to a complete yoga experience as any pose or movement. And these breathing patterns serve a really beneficial purpose not just on a yoga mat, because there is a clear link between breathing and your energetic state… or mood.
Have you noticed when you are in a state of high-energy, agitated, or upset, your breathing becomes shallow and rapid? How many times have you heard someone say: “Calm down! Take a few breaths.”
Or as I write this blog late at night, once my kids are in bed, I notice my face muscles are softening, my jaw is slack and my breaths are long, slow and quiet. To wake myself up, can I breathe to feel energized and be more alert?
So, our current energetic state, will be expressed in how we breathe. And when we breathe in intentional ways it is possible to change how we are feeling.
The simplest breathing practice I share in all my yoga classes, and that I practice on the daily myself, is to slowly, but comfortably inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. Sniff in, blow out. The only other structure I add to this practice is to maybe count these breath cycles – in, out – for 1 minute. Currently, when I’m in a good mood, feeling calm, and not experiencing any pressures from life, I can enjoy 5 long slow breath cycles in a one minute practice. Give it a try a few times this week and see how it goes for you. Some days may be easier than others to get into a calming rhythm, but it’s well-worth the practice.
Simply breathing in and out. Sniff in. Blow out. Try 5 simple breaths.
What sort of breathing practice is there for the youngest members of the family? Good news! A comforting breathing practice for you = a comforting breathing practice for your kiddos!
In addition to the simple practice of sniff in, blow out for ourselves, we can share the linked relationship between breathing-and-mood with our children.
Your Baby is often cuddled close to your body. During these times try practicing your own calm, soothing breathing patterns and know that there will likely be a response in kind from your baby. When held close, baby can both feel and sense your energy through your breathing. Allow yourself to feel safe, calm and well and baby will often experience the same.
For Tots, you can share breathing in similar ways, through cuddling. But what if tots are off and exploring? Pique their interest! Simply sit or lie down comfortably and begin a thoughtful, measured breathing practice. Curious tots may actually come and check out what you’re doing and join you to copycat your breathing and restful posture. Enjoy pausing the busy-ness of toddlerhood!
Tykes express “I do it myself”, so why not give them the tools of a playful breathing practice? Sniff flowers, or foods together. Blow on pinwheels, leaves, or tissues, to make them to move and float. Or try breathing the way a certain animal might breathe - how does a bunny breathe? Dog? Lion? Snake? These silly, activities are a great way to share a breathing practice together and invite the best, giggliest mood for both of you!
School-Age Kiddos are ready to develop a breathing practice as part of a regular routine and to help manage moods and reactions to day-to-day experiences. Offering them creative cues allows you to develop a thoughtful, positive breathing practice together. Visualize and discuss a favourite place like the beach, or the forest. Imagine feelings and sensations like when a snowflake falls on your tongue, wind blows on your face, you sit by a warm campfire, or you pat a beloved pet. Recite poems or helpful words as you inhale and exhale together. Try any number of these ideas, then in time, settle into one or two as a lasting, useful practice together.
As I conclude breathing practices in all of my family yoga classes, I like to offer this poem; it is adapted from a meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh:
“As I breathe in, I calm myself and my child.
As I breathe out, we smile.
Dwelling in this present moment I know,
This is our special moment.”
Take a breath.