Breath Awareness as a Tool

girlonbike
Do you remember the first time you learned to ride a bike? Maybe you started with training wheels until you figured out how to balance while pedaling. Then, without training wheels, you wobbled until you found your equilibrium on two wheels. I still remember how excited I felt after riding around the block without falling over. 

The process of learning and mastering something new is both fun and frustrating. You methodically navigate through the steps, repeating and practicing until you’re proficient in whatever it is you’re trying to learn. Once mastered, your brain clusters the neural pathways involved, freeing up space to focus on other things. This is how you’re able to perform familiar tasks with minimal conscious effort, like brushing your teeth. 

The problem with this so-called multitasking is that you’re not fully present. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; you can’t be mindful of every detail all the time. But going through your day on autopilot isn’t good. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll forget things. You’ll zone out. 

It’s impossible to be mindful all the time. Life is full of responsibilities. Thank goodness we can breeze through the monotonous stuff without much thought. But checking in with yourself, taking mini self-care breaks during the day, and acknowledging your accomplishments are important for mental health and wellness.

Breath Awareness

Breath awareness is a quick and easy way to check in or redirect your attention. It’s the simple act of noticing your breath without changing it. As you focus on your breath, you may notice it naturally deepening and slowing down. It may not change at all, but the point is your attention has shifted and is now inwardly directed towards yourself and your state of being for a moment. 

Try it. Pause for a moment and tune into your breath. Feel the gentle flow of air entering your nostrils, the gentle rise of your chest or the expansion of your belly. Notice the temperature and the sensation of each breath as it fills and exits your body. Observe how your chest rises or your belly expands with each inhale, and how your body relaxes with each exhale. There’s no need to change anything; just observe the natural rhythm of your breath. By checking in throughout the day, you anchor yourself in the present moment. 

This breath awareness practice acts as a reset button, bringing you back to center when you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or distracted. It cultivates a sense of calm and clarity amidst the chaos of life.

Mind-body connection

Your breath connects mind to body. As you become more proficient at noticing changes in your breathing pattern, you’ll become more sensitive to how your breath influences your body and your body influences your breath. You’ll develop a greater awareness of how stress manifests physically and can then intervene before it escalates. (“I’m holding my breath”, “I’m tense in my shoulders”, “I’m not breathing fully.”) Much like riding a bike gets easier with skill, understanding how emotions influence your breathing and how to use your breath as a tool, takes skill and practice, but it all starts with breath awareness (the training wheels of breathwork).

Breath awareness is a powerful tool for reducing stress, enhancing well-being, and cultivating mindfulness in everyday life. When emotions are high, your breath may feel restricted or irregular demonstrating the influence your thoughts have over your breath and body. When you focus on your breath, you shift from overthinking to sensing and feeling, fostering deeper introspection and self awareness.

The next time you feel caught up in the chaos of life, remember to pause, notice your breath, and come back to the present moment. Redirecting your attention this way is a simple way to soothe your mind and body, if only for a breath or two.

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