Mindful breathing: Breathe, baby!

April 19

"Breathe!"This is probably the most common request I’ve made of my clients since I've been a Grinberg Method practitioner. It's amazing how easy it is to fall into the habit of holding your breath or using an absolute minimum of your lung capacity. Conscious breathing is the key to breaking these habits.

Why should you practice conscious breathing?

First of all, conscious breathing feels sooo good. It's almost a relief. You can use it to connect with your body in a mindful way. It's a quick and easy way to shift attention from your mind to your body.

A conscious breathing exercise is like a "mini vacation" in my often hectic everyday life. Even one minute is enough to make me feel much more alert, agile, and simply happier. Taking a deep, conscious breath makes me feel alive – and that feels really good.

But why should you “learn” to breathe at all, since it happens automatically?

It may seem like it’s enough for our bodies to regulate our breathing automatically, but various factors interfere with this natural process.

  • Do you know that you hold your breath when you’re stressed?
  • Or that your breathing is much shallower than normal?
  • Or that your breathing becomes rapid and irregular? 

All of this interferes with your body's ability to perform its natural functions. And that makes you even more stressed.

On top of this, our modern lifestyles, with lots of brainwork and sitting, often disconnect us from our body's intuitive rhythms. Today's tendency to get things done quickly and expose ourselves to many stimuli further disrupts our natural breathing patterns.

Conscious breathing is a great "wonder drug" in this context. Through conscious breathing exercises we can influence the heart rate, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, and counteract the effects of chronic stress. This responds to the need to reintegrate our bodily functions and find a harmonious balance in an accelerated world.

So even though your body breathes when you’re not paying attention to it, there is a lot of potential in breathing that we don't normally use. Conscious breathing offers many opportunities to go beyond your limits and evolve. My work is about teaching people to consciously use breathing to heal body and mind.
A client of mine suggested a very nice image for this: like blowing on a child’s scraped knee, every breath heals our physical and mental wounds a bit.
I really like that idea, because it very much reflects my own experience. Breathing consciously is comforting when I experience physical or emotional pain.

But then why do we use our breathing capacity so little? There must be a catch!?!?

There are what you might call "disadvantages": if you breathe consciously, you feel a lot more. Conscious breathing ensures that you can no longer simply ignore unpleasant things or things that hurt, irritate, or nag you. And I can tell you from my own experience that this can be uncomfortable at times. You become more sensitive, open, and vulnerable – and, in my opinion, more human as well.

Also, when you first try it, conscious breathing might seem exhausting. As always, when you learn something new or step out of your comfort zone, you find that it challenges you in some way. Interestingly, your muscles also have to become more permeable and softer before they’ll allow a deeper breath.
But the many advantages of training your lung capacity and adapting your breathing to your needs far outweigh these “difficulties.”

What is conscious breathing good for?

A deep, conscious breath can relieve pain and promote healing.
A conscious breath can also relieve tension. It calms your battered nerves when the going gets tough.
When you are anxious, it can help you have a much-needed change of perspective. A simple, deep breath gives you a moment of mental stillness to step off the stressful merry-go-round of thoughts.
Breathing consciously can ensure that you maintain your level of performance, even if, for example, your working day is very long.
Consciously executed breathing increases concentration and, like a miracle cure, promotes restorative sleep. Your immune system also reacts positively to this and gets a boost. Your breath works in a wondrous way as a source of power that supports, strengthens, and sustains you.
And last but not least, it keeps you young because it constantly supplies your cells with valuable oxygen. Your brain is happy too: breath has a big effect on cell regeneration.
Conscious breathing is a way of taking more responsibility for your life. That may sound surprising, but when you breathe with awareness, you can at least control the amount of oxygen that flows into you and supports your body, even in life’s difficult moments. Sometimes that's a lot!!!

Is there such a thing as "correct" breathing ?

As far as I understand it, not really. Most of the time we tend to breathe too shallowly. So it’s usually important to first learn to consciously supply your body with more oxygen than you’re used to in everyday life.
You can also learn to direct your breathing into many different areas of your body, and to consciously massage your body with the movement of your breath.
Conscious breathing can open the door to very different experiences:
when I go for a run, my body needs something completely different than when I want to fall asleep or when I want to concentrate on working with my clients. It's great to be aware of this and to breathe according to the situation.

My own breathing experiences have been, and continue to be, truly groundbreaking.

When I was at university, I often had to deal with blackouts. In full view of my teachers and fellow students, I would turn into a pillar of salt. If I had to speak in front of the class I would go blank, and not know what to do. There were times when I got very good feedback, but had no memory of giving the presentation. I was completely on auto-pilot. I constantly heard the well-intentioned advice to simply take a deep breath, so that I would be able to free myself from the numbness. But for me they remained empty words, because I just couldn't control my breath in stressful situations. Thankfully I later had all sorts of experiences that taught me that breath plays a key role. So I still use breathing exercises today to increase my athletic performance, or lull myself into a restful sleep, or help my digestion, or practice silence.

In addition, there are all kinds of wonderful breathing exercises that, in the years since I have been practicing the various techniques of the Grinberg Method, have repeatedly led me out of my comfort zone into a new space of experience, where I have developed a new way of dealing with my fears with the help of my breath. In moments of emotional or even physical pain, I am always amazed at how much a breathing exercise can solve.

These exercises may seem simple, but their effect is enormous! Of course, it’s a tool that only works if you really practice it. If you find it hard to manage on your own at first, it can be helpful to do one-on-one sessions focusing on conscious breathing. In my Happy Body Coaching, I accompany you through any initial difficulties that may arise. In this context, I show my clients how they can “breathe beyond” what they are used to.
However, without practice you won't really get any further. And so the challenge is to become aware of your breathing again and again – whether it’s during breathing exercises or simply by focusing your attention on your breathing in daily life and connecting to your own breath.

I hope I was able to make the topic of breathing interesting for you. For me it will always be an adventure, probably for the rest of my life – until the last breath.

You can start becoming aware of your breathing right now by trying the following exercise. It is sometimes called Square Breathing or Box Breathing; in the Grinberg Method we call it 4 times 7:

I'm curious to hear about how the exercise helped you! Please write to me about your experience.

Grinberg Therapie Angebot

It is also possible to do individual sessions and train your breathing capacity with my.

And you can book an appointment here.

And last but not least

... I wish you much fun and joy in exploring your breathing.

Warm regards, Mirjam

PS. If you liked this article, please share the link in your groups and on social media and invite your friends to share. I look forward to it.

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