Your Breath is the Bridge

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I often begin a yoga class or self practice by reading a passage from Melody Beattie’s book Journey to the Heart. One of my favorite readings from the book is for February 18th titled Your Body, Mind, and Soul Are One.

The body, mind, spirit, and emotions are more than just connected. They are one. To nurture the body is to nurture the mind, spirit, and emotions. To nurture the spirit is to nurture the body, mind, and emotions. And so it goes, a continuous connection. A continuing whole.

Do you feel fragmented? Have you disowned a part of yourself? Invite it back. Maybe you’ve focused too heavily on one part and neglected the others. You can be a world-class athlete and still not be in touch with your soul. You can be skilled at dealing with any emotion that comes along, and yet not see the delicate connection between that emotion and your conscious thoughts and beliefs. Or you may be so focused on tending to the needs of your spirit and mind that you neglect your body—resent it and think of it as a limitation.

Tend to each aspect of the whole. Do things that nurture your spirit, perhaps spend time in prayer and meditation or time with nature. Work on what you believe;”“clarify the thoughts that run through your head. Nurture yourself emotionally. Let yourself heal from the feelings of the past, and do what you need to stay current and clear. Listen to your body and give it what it needs—it’s not separate and apart, it’s not a nuisance. It’s the form your spirit has created to experience the gift of life.

Find that place of balance in nurturing all parts of you. Then life will begin to be magical and you’ll see what you believe. Your feelings won’t be a bother. They’ll fuel your life; they’ll be the passion that adds color and zest to your life. Your body will lead you instinctively into what you want and away from what you dislike. And the longer you travel the journey to the heart, the more you’ll discover and trust your soul.

Start by becoming connected. If you love yourself and keep walking your path, soon you’ll see how connected you are.

One of the reasons I really enjoy this passage is because it offers me the opportunity to really check in and see where I am on the seesaw of life. There is often an ebb and flow of what I feel connected to and what I currently disown or feel separated from. The one absolute thing I can always come back to is my breath. There are moments where the breath feels choppy, erratic, fast paced, and other moments where it feels smooth, gentle, and stable. Having a practice where I can take time each day to focus on my breath helps to create the mind, body, soul connection to work more in sync with one-another. The breath is often the bridge that will connect all three aspects.

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”

―Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

Below are three different focused breathing exercises I encourage you to try (not all at one sitting).

Box Breathing

  • begin with your normal breathing pattern and notice if the breath feels smooth or sticky one direction or the other and also notice what your nervous system might feel like (calm, erratic, uplifted, etc)

  • once that is noted, then

    • INHALE for a count of 4

    • PAUSE for a count of 4

    • EXHALE for a count of 4

    • PAUSE for a count of 4

    • REPEAT for 4-5 rounds

  • return to normal breathing pattern

  • notice if the breath or nervous system has shifted in any way

Timed Breath

  • begin with your normal breathing pattern for several rounds

  • when ready, INHALE as long/deep as you can

  • PAUSE

  • EXHALE as slowly as you can trying to extend it for length of time.

  • Repeat for another 2-3 rounds. Each round, try to extend the length of exhalation for each round

Alternate Between Chest and Belly Breath (lie down on your back on a flat surface)

  • begin with your normal breathing pattern and notice if the breath feels smooth or sticky one direction or the other and also notice what your nervous system might feel like (calm, erratic, uplifted, etc)

  • place one hand on the heart and one on the belly

  • when ready, with the next inhale, breathe primarily into the chest (possibly brace your lower back)

  • completely exhale

  • next inhale, breathe primarily into your belly (possibly brace your shoulder blades)

  • completely exhale

  • and repeat alternate breathing into chest and belly for 5-6 rounds of each

  • return to normal breathing pattern

  • notice if the breath or nervous system has shifted in any way

While working on these focused breathing exercises, you may notice that some feel more natural than others. You may notice that from day to day, your pattern may shift. And you may begin to notice that over time, a connection between the mind, body and soul is a little more apparent.

be well-