Health and Happiness – Just a Breath Away

Health and Happiness – Just a Breath Away by Alfred Lee & Don Campbell

What is the secret to a happy, healthy life?

The answers are shouted tirelessly from the headlines of countless checkout stand magazines, with new routines and remedies preferred every week. Truly, there are many paths to health and happiness, but one of the easiest and most effective avenues available to us is often overlooked.

I'm referring to the breath, or more specifically, conscious breathing.There is perhaps nothing more elementary, natural, and automatic than the breath. Ninety percent of the energy our bodies use comes directly from the breath, and with it comes the amazing potential to improve our health, boost our stamina and creativity, and shield us from the harmful effects of stress and anxiety. But it is something that most of us take for granted. We rarely, if ever, pay attention to the effortless but essential act of filling our lungs - which we perform nearly 24,000 times every day - yet the benefits can be remarkable.

Most adults have considerable unused potential in their breath, which can be used to lift your immune system, lower your blood pressure, accelerate healing, improve learning and memory, and soothe agitated emotions. Competitive athletes have found it canenhance their performance, and spiritual seekers from nearly every tradition have usedthe breath for thousands of years to achieve deep states of meditation, contemplation, and prayer.

Watch a baby breathe. They naturally inhale deeply and their stomachs expand like aballoon with each breath. But as the years go by, stress, posture, and the hours hunchedover a computer or the wheel of a car all conspire to restrict our breathing until we arequite comfortable taking small sips of air into the tops of our lungs. Replacing this habitwith slow deep breathing the most important thing you can do for your health and is the cornerstone of conscious breathing.

Getting started couldn't be easier. It doesn't require any new equipment, clothing, orclub memberships. It is something you are already doing a thousand times an hour andwith just a little attention every day, you can improve the breathing habits that haveunconsciously developed over the course of your life.

To begin, spend 5-10 minutes daily taking slow deep breaths, being sure to gentlyexpand your lungs downward and out, holding for moment a before exhaling.Normally, we breath somewhere between 15 and 20 times a minute. Slowing this pacedown to about 10 times a minute (6 seconds per breath) provides the maximum health benefit and is very emotionally calming. The 6 second breath is performed as follows:

Inhale for 2 counts, hold for 1 count. Exhale for 2 counts, hold for 1 count.

As you become more comfortable with this slower, deeper style of breathing, find waysto remind yourself throughout the day to stop and take a few deep breaths.

Once you get into the habit of conscious breathing, you will find that it is a resource thatyou constantly draw from. As the unpredictable waves of life knock you about, you will find that conscious breathing provides a deep anchor that keeps you steady, both mentally and physically. How will this potent source of energy impact your health, stamina, clarity, and creativity? The answer lies with your very next breath.

Alfred Lee, Breathwork Consultant