It seems so simple, the act of breathing. We do it without even thinking about it. But that doesn’t mean we’re doing it right. So while we’re busy figuring out what to wear and what to eat and who we’re texting and the next picture we’re posting, our breath is slipping away from us. Deep breaths become short, shallow gasps. Ever have a moment where you stop for two seconds and realize you’re not breathing? That’s what I’m talking about.
Consider this – oxygen is literally what keeps us going. When we fill our lungs with air, we fill our body with air. When our body is infused with the correct amount of oxygen, we activate the metabolic function of our cells. When we remember to breath deeply, we activate our lymphatic systems, which allows our bodies to combat environmental toxins.
This kind of breathing also transforms our quick, panicked breaths into slow, soothing inhales and exhales, an act which can take us from a screaming “11” down to a manageable, if not a peaceful and calm “3”. Conscious breathing can be our greatest defense against anxiety and homicidal tendencies, if we just take the time to practice it.
Ultimately, deep breathing heals. It cleanses. It calms. Even in regards to injuries. I’ve dealt with several sports injuries, and during each physical therapy appointment, be it restorative yoga or strength-training, the practice I’ve incorporated into each rehabilitative pain has been this: Send breath to where it hurts. If you stop and focus on your breathing, slowing it and consciously sending it to the inflamed area rather than getting wrapped up in the pain, you’ll notice an instant difference. Try it. It works.
Much like mind over matter, it’s breath over matter. The next time you find yourself stuck in traffic, or waiting in line someplace, or even attempting to conquer that next inhuman yoga pose, just remember to breathe, and breathe deeply. Find that lost rhythm. Even as I type this, I realize how much I don’t breathe while I’m writing as opposed to how much I do when the keystrokes stop. It’s like learning to ride a bike or drive standard. We never forget, but we do need to actually pay attention and make a concerted effort to resurrect those latent skills.
Consider this a recalibration of vitality, and the defining line that separates us from the zombies peppering the Walking Dead. And if nothing else, it’s the easiest, cheapest, and healthiest life-extending practice you will ever take up.