by Linda Benkö
People often ask me what I do for work. My response is usually something like, “It has to do with a physical process every human being does around 20,000 times per day. I help people breathe”.
“But I already breathe. All the time.“
Yes, we all breathe. But most of us only notice the importance of well functioning lungs on a physical and mental level if our lung capacity is limited for some reason. Then, we become painfully aware of respiratory health issues…especially now, with the threat of COVID-19 all around us.
You can survive for around 40 days without food, almost five days without drinking, but only a few minutes without air.
Breathing is a very special function.You need oxygen to keep your body going. The brain is particularly sensitive to a lack of oxygen. Although breathing is vital to our well-being, we tend to do it casually and without much thought. Breath is the source of life for each one of us; and conscious breathing helps us cope with physical as well as psychological challenges.
With its wide range of benefits, I often wonder why conscious breathing lacks full recognition from medical institutions, health authorities and the general public. A good breathing practice is the quickest way to tap into your full potential on both psychological and spiritual levels. Do you want to release yourself from tension or fears? Or the feeling of separation from others? Breathing can help.
What is conscious breathing?
Conscious breathing started with yoga, which originated in India and dates back more than 5.000 years. A yoga practice allows for mental and physical health by naturally incorporating breathing, exercise, and meditation. It is a philosophy of life. Breathing techniques were brought to our Western World only about fifty years ago. Over the years, people gradually became more aware of its importance in general health and well-being.
A wide variety of conscious breathing techniques exist. Examples are rebirthing, transformational breath, pranayama, paced breathing, integrative breathing and breathing gymnastics. The different practices can last from a few minutes to two hours depending on what it is.
Why is a breath practice important?
Breath is the only vital physiological function that runs autonomously (carried on without outside control), yet is consciously, and actually very easily, controllable by us. If you change your breathing patterns and become more aware of your breath, you can directly influence your autonomous nervous system and positively affect your physical, mental, psychological and spiritual health.
Conscious breathing can induce calm when you’re stressed. Alternatively, it can invigorate you when you need energy. When you open up your physical “breathing spaces”, you gain access to your multifaceted emotional world, which most of us suppressed from childhood to become more “rational and reasonable” as we matured. You begin to engage more with yourself and others when you no longer block the natural flow of your breath. Breathing also encompasses a spiritual dimension. Breathing unites us all, we all breathe the same air.
I started “breathing“ eleven years ago
This fascinating topic cast a spell on me since then, both professionally and personally. I significantly improved my health in general, including my respiratory capacity, sleep, concentration, energy level, and ability to regenerate. I am extremely grateful for all the positive changes in my life since breathing consciously and now work to share my knowledge, skills and experiences with others.
Breathing is a useful tool, easily available…why wait?
Life right now is hard. The world is a stressful place due to the coronavirus. Some of us are sick, some are hunkered down at home and some risk their lives every day to help others. If you don’t currently have a breathing practice in place, now is a great time to adopt new habits. Use this readily available resource to deal with the current craziness. And when the pandemic is under control and we can move about freely once again, continue to use your breath practice to get through future life stresses.
It’s never to late to breathe! I would like to invite you to do a breathing exercise with me.
Linda Benkö lives in Vienna, Austria. She is a a trained breathwork facilitator, teacher for integrative breathgymnastics, trainer for heart coherence and coherent breathing (also known as paced breathing), life counselor and facilitator for seminars to help people explore the pre and perinatal circumstances of their own birth (besides yoga and qigong trainer). She offers breathing sessions online through her virtual “Breathing Café” via zoom. In her group trainings and 1:1 sessions, offered in both German and English, Linda encourages people to exchange ideas about the effect of the breathing exercises in a benevolent framework. Contact Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about breathing exercises.
top image source: Olia Nayda