Radical Breathing – Getting Really Inspired

Radical Self-Care at the most basic level is about breathing.  Breath awareness is literally and metaphorically the most inspiring radical action you can take toward self-care. The Latin root word is inspirare and means “to breathe.”  

The oxygen in each breath is the fuel for your life. Without that essential fuel you will die quickly. Your brain is extremely oxygen-dependent. The documented world record for holding one’s breath (without pre-breathing pure oxygen) is about eleven minutes but for most of us two minutes is pushing it and at around three or four minutes you pass out. Passing out puts your body back in charge and prevents further brain damage by restoring a regular breathing unconsciously.     

Despite the vital importance of regular deep breathing, most of us are hypo-ventilators. Basically, we don’t breath enough. We get so involved in what we’re doing and feeling that we hold our breath. Think about it…. how aware were you of breathing before you read this sentence? Where do you feel your breath now? Is your chest moving with each breath? Or your belly? Or both. Can you feel the air moving in and out of your nose and at the back of your throat?      

For radical self-care at any level the most fundamental and inspirational practice is to become more aware of your breathing. Being aware of your breathing always brings you back to the present moment and supports physical, mental, emotional, and soul alignment.      

Many disciplines from athletic performance, (swimming, running, dancing) to singing, to meditation practices (Buddhist sitting, pranayama yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi-Gong) teach breath awareness and breathing techniques, and for good reason. Breathing is the only physical life-sustaining process that is both conscious and unconscious.      

Because your breath can be controlled consciously and also operate unconsciously, with training you can create an inner access channel to other unconscious parasympathetic pathways, such as controlling heart rate, body temperature, digestion, glandular activity, and stress levels. Even if you don’t have the desire to learn these advanced body control techniques, daily conscious breathing can greatly improve your mental and physical performance, create more energy, support emotional well-being, help with pain management, release trauma, and deepen any spiritual practice.     

Below you’ll find a few radical moves to get you breathing more consciously. When I was first introduced to these practices they seemed simplistic and I didn’t practice consistently. Now as a result of making conscious breathing part of my daily routine I understand just how transformative and inspiring breath awareness can be. As I continue to become more consistent in my breathing practice, I always find I’m truer to myself, more awake, and inspired.     

I invite you to pick one of these breathing practices each day and watching what impact it has. I believe you will be surprised by how hard these suggestions are to follow and yet what profound positive effects breath awareness can have for your self-care and well being at all levels.

 - Start the day with a few minutes of conscious breathing. Breathe in to the count of three and out to the count of three, connecting each inhale and exhale without a pause. Give thanks for whatever you call that source that kept you breathing all night.  - Find times during the day to take breathing breaks. Take a one-minute breathing break right here, right now in this present moment. Open to the silence.  

- Take five conscious breaths before you start eating and after you finish. This has the huge bonus benefit of being more conscious of your food choices and eating habits.  

- Take a few conscious breaths before you start and after you complete anything. Appreciate being awake in that moment.  

- Use red lights and stop signs as signals to pay attention to your breathing.  

- Take breathing and moving breaks every twenty minutes when you are at the computer.  

- End the day with a few minutes of conscious breathing and give thanks for being “breathed” another day.  

Tom Daly