Ok, this is a fairly obvious statement . . . the human body requires oxygen to sustain itself.

In fact, if the brain is starved of oxygen for a mere 4 minutes, we begin to die.

This is a good reason to breathe!

Luckily, our bodies have been built to automatically trigger a response to inhale and exhale without us having to think about it at all.  This automation comes in very very handy and is highly necessary.  But breathing is much more powerful an act than just keeping us alive . . .

We are capable of so much more!

There is a distinct reason breathing is taught in various forms of ancient practices like yoga, qigong, meditation, tao . . .

Although unconscious breathing keeps our bodies alive, it is conscious breathing which enlivens our bodies.

Modern science has finally caught up to what the ancient meditation practitioners and teachers knew a long time ago – mindful breathing is good for you!

With simple mindful breathing practice, studies have shown to reduce stress (a major contributor to numerous diseases) and increase health and vitality.

One of my personal struggles since as long as I can remember has been chronic insomnia.

I have always had a hard time falling asleep at night and often spend countless hours waiting for that deep rest to come over me . . .

Breathing practice has helped me immensely.  Something about the quiet focus on the breath, quiets the mind and connects with the parasympathetic nervous system which helps me unwind . . . and actually get a good night’s sleep, saving me from the insanity of sleep deprived fatigue.

The beauty of breathing practice is that it simple to do, requires very little external “stuff”, you can do it practically anywhere, and it makes you feel awesome!

Here’s a simple little exercise to try on your own . . . try it when you’re having trouble sleeping at night or whenever you need a little rest:

TIP: If you are using this technique for a short relaxation and not to fall asleep, you may want a gentle way to time your breathing practice. There are several good apps (many are free) as well as “meditation timers” that sound a chime.  When starting out, try give yourself at least 10 to 15 minutes.

1. Lie down or sit in a comfortable position – make sure you’re warm and comfy!

2. Close your eyes and mouth, breathing through your nostrils, and place your hands lightly on your belly.

3. Begin to notice and pay attention to your breath – don’t worry about changing how you are breathing . . . the importance is just to pay attention as a non judgmental observer!

4. Imagine you are a small child looking out the window and into your body.  Without judgement or worry, start to become curious about how the breath feels . . . instead of describing the feeling with words, try to use your other senses: can you feel the gentle expansion of your belly move your fingers?  How does the breath feel when it moves through your nostrils?

5. Continue to gently focus on the feeling of the breath: where do you feel the breath?  What parts of the body does it move into easily?  Does the quality of the breath change?

6. That’s all!  Simple – so simple that it can be done by practically anyone anywhere.

Try it – how do you feel?  Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

What have you got to lose?  Certainly not sleep!

Enjoy . . .

contemplative caterpillar