3 Ways to Breathe Mindfully

inhale... exhale... inhale...
man and woman on yoga mats doing alternating nostril breathing exercise
Pexels / Ivan Samkov

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children . . . to leave the world a better place . . . to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


No one can deny the importance of breathing, yet many people forget to mindfully breathe throughout the day. Luckily, most of us don’t need to consciously think of this at night, and it just naturally happens. If you have ever been unable to breathe fully, you certainly know the discomfort of this experience. We need air for so many of our metabolic functions, and it is a source of life itself. Different thoughts, emotions, and experiences can even take our breath away. Sometimes it can be exciting—when we enjoy a new thrill such as parachuting, the excitement of a favourite amusement ride, or looking at nature’s beauty in the form of waterfalls or mountains. Sometimes the moments that take our breath away are filled with grief, anxiety, or fear. In each of these moments, we may forget to breathe.



If we pay mindful attention to our breathing in daily life, we can fully experience the connection with our mind, body, and soul. You may be familiar with images of people doing yoga or meditating with attention to breathing and a mindful focus. We don’t have to wait for planned activities such as these to remind us of the importance of this simple experience, where the benefits can include a calm mind, positive interactions in relationships, healthy digestion, and peaceful sleep—what a beautiful and portable tool we have at our disposal! I’ll discuss three ways that we can all take advantage of this tool's numerous benefits. Some of you may recognize the language I’ve used to help us think of this as a new way to “take our vows” for our own, full life experience. Truly, the air we breathe daily can (and should) be as cherished as a loving partner—as it is exactly that.


1. To Have and To Hold

What I would like for us to think about while we breathe in is this: what a loving experience it is to share with the air we are breathing. This thought sends out mindful and conscious energy of appreciation into the world around us. Some breathing exercises encourage holding one’s breath at both the end of deep inhalation and at the end of a complete exhalation; however, don’t hold your breath for too long! This process is beneficial for many things—physically, it helps to bring down blood pressure, and psychologically/spiritually, it helps us understand that we cannot hold anything forever. With a loving appreciation for the air itself, the energetic benefit is even more helpful to our body and mind, and to the wellness of the world around us. Try to breathe with this loving intention and appreciation (and maybe even try breath-holding) for five breaths per day. Always begin this exercise gently. Holding your breath for too long, maybe because you’re eager to do this well, doesn’t make it better! Keeping your mood light and loving is the key here.


older man and woman on yoga mats meditating
Pexels / Vlada Karpovich


“Become the leader of your life. Lead yourself to where you want to be. Breathe life back into your ambitions, your desires, your goals, your relationships.” —Steve Maraboli


For any loving relationship—whether as a couple, a parent to a child, or in friendships—keeping the mood light through conscious breathing before (or even during) any meaningful discussions will help keep/bring calm, respectful, and more effective communication. Children who observe parents using such strategies with each other will more likely use them in their own life—and what a great way to learn how to manage stress! Children can be taught the same techniques through family interaction rather than just observation, which is much easier and truly beneficial for all.


2. In Sickness and in Health

Not much can match the unease experienced when your breathing is restricted. Whether you experience this with the congestion from a cold/cough, allergies, asthma, other lung or throat diseases, or even medications that create a side effect of restricted breathing, it’s not comfortable! Sometimes even watching a close family member or friend struggle to breathe as they work through such an experience changes your breathing patterns as well. Whichever side of that uneasy breathing experience you are on, you can remember to love the blessing of a complete breath anytime. When we are not feeling well, most think there’s nothing better than basking in the experience of easy breathing again, and when we can do so, most are not conscious of it. Today, begin enjoying this experience, whether you are breathing from your mouth because of a stuffy nose, or everything is well and you’re able to breathe deeply through your nose. A complete breath means we can breathe in deeply while filling the lungs; this is most easily done if we imagine filling our abdomen/tummy as we breathe in, and then exhale completely by imagining emptying that full tummy. This is the second style of conscious breathing that helps align our mind, body, and soul. 


“There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted. Then, there’s another way: a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity.” —Rumi


Children (and many adults) change breathing patterns when experiencing fear or shame, as Rumi’s quotation reminds us. Conscious breathing before communicating with children or adults, even after they have said or done something wrong, can breathe love into them when they most need it. Remember that actions can be corrected, and sharing love while communicating has immeasurable benefits; adults can help themselves as well as others with this same awareness. 

Think of times that taking a complete breath may be very easy to do—I have found I can do this regularly as part of my morning routine. When I head out for my morning walks, I consciously stop to breathe at several key places as I take in nature’s beauty around me. Imagine, all of nature is living and it’s breathing the same air that is helping us live! This is in line with unity consciousness: recognizing that we are all connected by similar threads in our lives. We can all benefit from a similar conscious routine in whatever time/space works best for us. Aim to take five complete breaths at a certain time each day to fully enjoy this experience. This will help us re-centre, improve focus and concentration, and help manage/prevent many chronic illnesses. 


3. To Love and Cherish

We come back to love. When we fully love something, we cherish it. This could be any loving relationship; it could be a home, a pet, or even a memory. The mind is often looking to gain something it loves but does not have, but once it has the desired object, it’s often not cherished until “needed.” If we think about air this way, we see that we can learn to change this mindset with the simple decision to love and cherish each breath that we are mindfully taking. Can you imagine not having it? No one is promised their next breath, and knowing that can help us appreciate each one. When you first wake up in the morning, what a blessing it is to be aware that we are breathing! When we take just a few moments to enjoy this awareness and truly appreciate it, we have made a conscious decision to welcome life into our waking experience. And now you know—as Ralph Waldo Emerson so eloquently said—“one life has breathed easier because you have lived.”

Enjoy this awareness.


You May Also Like: Your Best Morning Routine: Yoga, Fuel, Mantra & More, Holistic Remedies for Anxiety and Stress Relief, Alternatives to Meditation. 

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