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How to Own Your Breath, and Wake Up While You're At It

“When you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace.”

Most of us have had plenty of real life experience with calming breaths in stressful situations, integrated into yoga classes, in attempts to ward off pain, etc.. But it is the powerful, energizing effects that the breath can have on body and mind that truly and utterly amaze me. The Stimulating breath is a short, quick rhythmic breath that works to increase energy by recreating the adrenal stimulation that occurs when under stress. This results in the release of energizing chemicals such as epinephrine in the body. By breathing through your nose you also work to stimulate the subtle energy center located around your sinuses. This is where the left (cooling) and the right (heating) currents of vital energy meet that are directly connected to the nervous and endocrine systems, giving them a good ol’ wakening shake.

The next time you’re feeling sluggish or having difficulty focusing, forgo reaching for that coffee cup, take a step back from the present, close your eyes, and let the breathing begin….

The Stimulating Breath: The Stimulating Breath is adapted from a yogic breathing technique. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness.

  • Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be equal in duration, but as short as possible. This is a noisy breathing exercise.
  • Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm, suggesting a bellows. Breathe normally after each cycle.
  • Do not do for more than 15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice the Stimulating Breath, you can increase your time by five seconds or so, until you reach a full minute.

If done properly, you may feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout. You should feel the effort at the back of the neck, the diaphragm, the chest and the abdomen. Try this breathing exercise the next time you need an energy boost and feel yourself reaching for a cup of coffee.

(This breathwork exercise was originally posted over at Dr. Weil’s website. You can find it here.)

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