It’s a new year. A time to reflect on the past and look forward to what we’d like to do or accomplish in the future. Perhaps, because of the holidays, you haven’t had a chance to just sit down and relax. Or the thoughts of planning for this year, personally and professionally, is causing a little stress in your life. I’d like to encourage you to take a moment right now. To sit quietly. To relax your shoulders. To really breathe.
A multitude of studies have been conducted showing the benefits of conscious breathing. Breathing is a unique visceral function, (as compared to digestion, cardiovascular, endocrine) because though it is automatic like other bodily functions, it also can be voluntary. For thousands of years, yoga has incorporated conscious breathing into the practice. Today modern science recommends this exercise alone or accompanied by mediation, for physical, emotional, and mental health.
There are several reasons one should take a moment or two to really focus on the breath. The nervous system is improved because of the increase of oxygen in the body which nourishes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. The whole body benefits because the nervous system controls the rest of the body. Immunity is also boosted because circulation is improved, the thymus gland is supported and stimulated. Oxygenation of the brain helps reduce mental stress, while deep breathing allows the body to shift from a “fight or flight” response to a state of calm, as it affects the parasympathetic nervous system. Lastly, for those who have made the resolution to lose weight, breathing increases muscle and helps with weight control.
For those of you who are new to conscious breathing and don’t know where to start, here is a simple exercise.
- Inhale and count to 5.
- Hold for a count of 3.
- Exhale for a count of 8.
- Hold for a count of 1.
- You may repeat once or up to 5 minutes.
Focusing on your own breathing can have a significant impact on your whole well-being, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Commit this year to self-care. It will benefit you personally and professionally. Anytime you find yourself not able to concentrate, sense a little stress, or are “under the weather”, take a breath. A deep, cleansing breath. And feel renewed.