In my last post, I talked about the importance of breath and featured an article by somatic practitioner, teacher, and professional dancer Angela Frederick. In the second of this two-part series on breath work, Angela outlines three breathing exercises that she teaches to her students. Incorporating breath work into your self-care routine can be such a powerful tool for managing stress and pain.
Just Breathe: Part 2
By Angela Frederick
If you would like to experience the benefits of breathing fully and deeply throughout your life, I encourage you to spend some time trying conscious breathing practices. Take note of the differences in your body and mind before and after you do them. Here are a few of my personal favorites, but there are many others out there. You can find them by searching the on-line for “breathing practices”.
1. Alternate Nostril Breathing:
Generally, we breathe through one nostril at a time, staying in each pattern for 1-2 hours. Only for a short period throughout the day does your breathing naturally occur through both nostrils. Traditional yoga practices tell us that breathing through the left nostril is nourishing, calming, and relaxing while breathing through the right nostril stimulates energy and supports more vigorous activity.
When breathing is balanced, it supports inner activities such as meditation. To balance your breath as a way to focus inward:
Use your thumb to close off one nostril and breathe in through the second (open) nostril.
Then use your forefinger to close the second nostril and remove your thumb from the first nostril as you breathe out.
Leave the forefinger where it is, and breathe in.
Then close the open nostril with your thumb and breath out.
To activate one side of the brain, breath in through the opposite nostril, then out the nostril on the side of the brain you seek to activate, and repeat this pattern on the same side several times.
2. Three-Dimensional Breathing:
This exercise engages the maximum upper, middle, and lower space in your torso during the breathing process.
Lie on the floor with your knees bent, and your feet slightly wider than your knees (make sure that your spine is completely elongated on the floor).
Relax your arms across your chest or beside your torso. Focus on your natural breathing pattern, until it naturally becomes slow and regular.
Next, as you take several normal breaths, sense in your torso the lengthening of your inner muscles. Visualize the lengthening downward with your sacrum and tailbone toward your heels on your inhale. Release the reach on the exhale. Repeat for several breaths.
Place your hands along the sides of your ribcage and notice the natural widening and narrowing of your torso as you inhale and exhale naturally. Repeat for several breaths.
Place your hands flat on your chest as you notice the rising and sinking of your chest and your back pushing into the floor. Repeat for several breaths.
Lastly, bring your attention to the center of your torso. Notice the expansion of your torso outward in all directions/dimensions as you inhale. On the exhale, notice the movement inward of all directions/dimensions back to center.
3. Light/Dark Breathing:
This is one of my favorites because it is simple and can be done anywhere!
Sit up straight or lay on the floor.
Close your eyes.
On your inhale, imagine breathing in light (healing, peaceful, joyful energy). On the exhale, imagine breathing out anything dark (stress, illness, etc.).
Allow your breathing to become deeper. With each inhale, feel the light fill your body more completely.
If there is a specific area that you want to send healing to (for instance, your stomach), imagine the light coming in and filling your stomach completely.
As you exhale, imagine anything dark moving out of your stomach and out of your body with the breath. Continue this for several minutes.
If you are trying to heal a certain part of your body, take deep breaths and envision your breath filling that specific part of your body. For example, if you want to listen to and lead more with your heart, close your eyes and see yourself breathing in and out through your heart’s center.
You can find out more about Angela and her work with the Wild Space Dance Company here.
Do you have a favorite breath work technique? If so, let me know in the comments below.
For more information on incorporating breath work into your self-care routine (and especially if you don’t have a healthy self-care routine), contact me - I can help!