Coaching Corner: Paying Attention To Your Breath

Breathing seems pretty basic, why bother talking about it?  It is something we do all the time!  Tending to your breath can have a big impact actually.  “Take a few deep breaths.”  I’m sure you’ve heard that before.  In terms of coaching: executive, life or health, at some point, the breath will become the foundation for many different types of work.   I’ll take a quick look at breathing from several perspectives in an effort to improve your knowledge as to how useful focusing on the breath can be.

Let’s start with the physical mechanics of breathing.  Do you predominantly breath through your nose?  If you can, it makes a big difference.  Your nose is better designed to filter air.  Perhaps your nose seems like it’s too often stuffed up.  Did you know that, if you consciously breath through your nose more often, you will find that your nose gets less congested.  It’s also true that the side that is clogged alternates during the day.  Sure, a stuffy nose can have something to do with allergies, upper respiratory infections and what you eat. But, if you breath through your mouth all the time, you miss the natural filtering system that your nose provides. Try breathing through your nose when exercising, sleeping and meditating.  With regular practice, you’ll find that breathing through your nose comes naturally and easily.

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Your respiratory system includes the diaphragm, intercostal muscles, various neck muscles, lungs, trachea, pharynx, larynx, and nasal cavity.  When you focus your breath through your nose, during exercise for instance, you’ll find that all the muscles of your respiratory system become engaged. With practice, you’ll be able to regulate your breathing more.  This can prove handy if you get excited, anxious or angry.  Learning to slow your breathing is an excellent tool for self soothing.

Often coaching exercises ask people to stop and pay attention to their inhalation and exhalation for one minute.  Why bother?  Many meditation practices use this type of focusing on the breath as a way to train the mind to focus.  In the basic form of Vipassana, a buddist meditation, your attention is on the air passing directly through your nose.  Why so specific?  The purpose? to help you concentrate.  By focusing your mind on your breath, you begin to let go of distracting thoughts, becoming more able just to attend to the sensations of the breath.  This attention coupled with the natural tendency for reducing physical tension by slowing breathing, helps calm the overall mind and body , allowing it to settle and become present.

The term mindfulness is often used for many of the basic meditation techniques.  Mindfulness is more than simply attending to the breath.  Once this attention is regular and easy to follow, mindfulness is the ability to notice the distractions that appear;  such as physical sensations in the body, feelings that arise in your heart or mind, as well as various distracting thoughts that naturally arise.  Mindfulness basically means that you are able to notice these sensations, feelings, or thoughts arising, and then you are able to let them pass, returning to the simple repetition of breathing.  Sounds simple?  In many ways it is. Sounds hard? In many ways it is too!

Learning to attend to the breath is essential for good physical health, allowing one to improve energy flow in your system, to sleep more soundly and use your energy more effectively.  Emotionally, learning to attend to your breathing allows you to pay closer attention to feelings, without having to necessarily do anything about it.  You can feel more fully what is going on.  Focusing on your breath can allow you to reduce overall activated feelings.  Finally, using your breath in a mindfulness practice, allows you to better regulate your thoughts, feelings, as well as physical sensations.  A mindfulness practice supports a fuller attention to your experience, supporting healing as well as growth.

Taking time to practice with the breath is a powerful regular practice.  It’s easy and free.  Start today!  Take a few minutes and breath through your nose.  Let me know what you notice!

 

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