What is your breath telling you?
January 2017 is all about loving your body at Love Your Body. So, we are thrilled that our friends at Tree House Yoga have agreed to do a series of blog posts for our series Happy Body! In this week's post, Candy Irven, owner of Tree House Yoga, writes about our breath and what it reveals about our emotional and mental state. See below for her full bio.
You do it every day all day long and usually take it for granted. I’m talking about breathing.
All day, every day you breathe without really thinking about it. Unless you’ve got an advanced meditation practice or are in a yoga class, most of the time you breathe without paying much attention to what it’s trying to tell you. That’s right, all day, every day your breath is communicating with you.
Let’s try an experiment. Wherever you are, find a comfortable position, whether that means sitting up straight with your feet flat on the floor or maybe laying down (just make sure you can continue reading). ;-)
Without making any changes begin to notice your breath. This is about awareness, not judgement so resist the urge to breath how you think you should. Instead feel into the awareness. Sometimes it helps to place one hand on your belly and another on your heart.
Notice if your breath is shallow or deep. Are you breathing into your belly or is your inhale stopping around your ribs or even higher in your chest?
If it helps, feel free to close your eyes for a bit so you can really notice what’s happening in your body with your breath. Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer. You’re simply tuning in and becoming aware.
Now with your hands still on your body, take a big inhale through your nose and release an audible sigh out of your mouth. Notice, did the quality of your breath change at all?
That simple act of inhaling through the nose and exhaling through your mouth balances the sympathetic (stress response) and parasympathetic (peaceful state) nervous systems, bringing you back into a more peaceful, receptive state of being.
We do this a lot in yoga -- big inhale through the nose and big sigh out the mouth -- to bring our mind and body back into sync with the present moment and to release any stress that we might have inadvertently invited in. You can do the same whenever you need to refocus and rebalance.
It can happen at any time, your mind takes you on a journey that ends up spinning you up or out of control...and you don’t even realize it. Unless, you've learned to practice breath awareness.
See, your breath is constantly telling you what’s happening in your body as a result of your mind, which does all sorts of stuff based on your environment. What happens externally without a doubt impacts you internally, and the first warning sign comes from your breath.
Your breath will never lie to you, unlike your mind. Think about it (pun intended). Shallow, rapid breathing is often a response to an anxiety filled situation (or thought). Deep, rapid breathing is usually an indication that you’re frustrated...I mean, really frustrated. Even if your situation hasn’t changed but you play with those two types of breath, most likely you’ll find yourself beginning to feel a bit anxious or angry or amped up...anything but calm and peaceful.
As you learn to become aware of this silent form of communication, you can also learn how to hit an immediate reset button. It’s as simple as a big inhale through the nose and a big sigh out of your mouth.
And just like that, you’re back. In the present moment. Feeling and experiencing the moment and not letting your mind (or imagination) run the show. Just like that, you allowed your breath to draw you back into the present...so you can make your own decisions about how you feel and how to react by listening to what your breath is telling you.
Next time things feel a little overwhelming, just remember, big inhale through the nose, big sigh out the mouth and then listen.
Candy found yoga…or rather yoga found her…in 2009 after much encouragement from a local studio owner where she preferred to practice Pilates. All it took was one class, though, and she was hooked. Her mat was the one place she could slow down, actually clear her mind, and focus on what truly mattered: her self and her relationships.
Over the years, as professional demands grew and marriages failed, yoga became a place of solitude for Candy where she could also experience a much needed connection to something greater. Regardless of what was happening in her life, she was able to find consistency, solace, compassion, love, and truth on her mat. Sometimes yoga would bring her comfort. Sometimes laughter and other times tears. No matter what emotion confronted her on the mat, she found she always felt better for having practiced. Always felt a deeper connection to what was truly important.
With some gentle nudging from the universe, Candy found her way to Tree House and literally upon entering the door knew her life would forever be changed. She bought Tree House with the intention of continuing to grow this mighty oak tree into a conscious community for all those searching for a deeper connection to both self, their community, and a higher power (whatever that may be).
Much like Candy’s classes, Tree House is open to all and welcomes diversity in appearance, beliefs, and skills. As a teacher, she prefers to offer slower flows to allow the space so many need. It’s taken a while, but Candy has finally learned that “slow” doesn’t mean boring or easy. It’s the pace that we need to hear ourselves. To hear our hopes and dreams. To hear our truth. And to hear both our own heart beat and that of the world around us.