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Take a Breath
Posted: 3/23/2012 | Wellness Comments
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“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts." –Thich Nhat Hanh

"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." –Genesis 2:7

Right now you are breathing. You inhale, you exhale, from birth to death. You can go months without eating, days without drinking, but only a few minutes without breathing. Of course we need oxygen to survive, but breath is also a path to our highest awareness.

This isn’t a new concept. The word in English “breath” means “life and vitality.” The word “spirit” comes from the Latin word “spiritus,” meaning breath. In ancient Greek the word “pneuma” meant both air and spirit. In Hebrew, the word “ruach” meant breath and creative spirit. 

In the King James version of the bible, “spirit,” “breath,” and “breath of life” are referenced 502 times. In vedantic culture it’s Prana, Qi in Chinese, Mana in Hawaiian culture, Lung in Tibet. All refer to the flow of life force or spirit within us, a sacred energy that literally animates our bodies and gives us life.

These ancient traditions also incorporate breathing into spiritual practice, as with meditation, prayer, rosary, chanting, qi gong, tai chi, yoga and other modalities. Conscious breathing can pave the way to greater awareness by bringing oxygen to our brain and other vital organs more efficiently. It slows down our often frantic thinking, helps us relax and brings us into the current moment. 

Research suggests that conscious breathing has a huge beneficial effect on our health, both physiologically and psychologically. Simply put, it reduces stress which ultimately causes disease. Deep breathing increases energy and reduces fatigue. It helps with respiratory problems, increases circulation and soothes the nervous system. It relaxes our muscles and helps moves toxins out of our system. 

Most of the time we’re unaware of our breath and we breathe shallowly from the chest, rather than the belly. We spend much of our time sitting in our cars, in front of our computers or on our couches. Most of us pay little attention to our posture and our diaphragm, or the way our emotions speed up or interrupt our breathing.

Conscious breathing can clear our minds and create a deep internal connection that helps us manage our daily, tumultuous lives. It’s important to take time each day to breathe consciously, and there are many techniques and practices available to to this.

Take a few moments now to focus on your breath. Feel yourself inhale deeply, then exhale. Imagine your breath as your spirit, your “elan vital,” not contained by you but moving through you and out into the world. 

As you breath, remember you are creating a bridge between your body and soul, your inner and outer worlds. 

Do you employ a breathing practice? What benefits have you seen? Your comments make a difference for all of us!

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