By Ruth Woudstra
‘Take a deep breath’ might be regarded a clichéd suggestion, and is often the last thing you want to do when feeling anxious or stressed. And yet, the fact that the breath is arguably the body’s most powerful healing force, means there’s a lot to be said for starting with the basics.
Think for a moment about the fluctuation of your energy levels during the day. How are they affected by your work, diet, and sleep patterns? What about thoughts and emotions? Any imbalance in lifestyle and stress can drain your energy in the short term, and disease later.
Breathwork, however, can reverse this process and allow your vital energy (also known as chi, ki or prana) to flow more freely. If you enjoy routine, you can start your day with some breath exercises, or work a few conscious breaths in before meals. If you are more spontaneous, pause during the day when you feel you need it, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
As for technique, there are many to choose from. One of my favourites is the ‘four part breath’ where you inhale for four counts through both nostrils, retain the breath for four counts, exhale through the nostrils for four counts and hold the breath out for four. Just four rounds can leave you feeling centred, relaxed, and at peace. Deep breathing in general may also leave you filled with a sense of well being and more in command of the self.
We often tend to hand the responsibility for our health to someone else: the doctor, the pharmacist, even an alternative healer. But before venturing down any of these avenues, it is well worth going back to the nuts and bolts of healing. The breath can help reconnect our mental, physical and emotional selves in a matter of moments, and is not only free, but at our disposal 24 hours of the day.
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