Finding the Rhythm in Your Breath

Posted by Nick Niesen on October 26th, 2010

Copyright 2006 Marshall House

Focusing on your breath can be a truly empowering experience. You may have a tendency to discount the power of noticing and using the rhythm of your breath because your breath is so much a part of you. It might just seem too simple.

Ordinarily, of course, your breath works in the automatic mode. Thank goodness for that! If your breathing needed your constant attention, you would not have time for other adventures.

As an intentional practice, for short periods of time, giving your full attention to your breathing can be a very powerful, brief meditation. A "short period of time" might be measured:

* By numbers of breaths, for example, three in-breaths and three out-breaths;

* In minutes, for example, one minute or two or three; or

* By the time viewed through or measured by an event, for example, sitting at a traffic stop light.

Choose whatever measurement you want, and then practice focused, intentional breathing many times throughout the day. This practice will keep you balanced, filled with extra oxygen to help you to maintain greater stamina.

One interesting dynamic to notice is the actual shift between automatic and intentional breathing, in other words, notice the movement or transition from automatic (unconscious) breathing to intentional (conscious) breathing and vice versa.

In addition, notice that your breath becomes different when you are giving your full attention to it. I have read that humans use different muscles when breathing in these two different ways. Perhaps that is true. My own personal opinion is that you use the same muscles, but you use them differently in these two modes. I consider that this is similar to the difference between using your gluteus maximus muscles to walk down a hill as compared to walking up a hill.

Another dynamic to pay attention to is the pace or rhythm of your breath. There are many aspects of the breath that you can give your attention to. The rhythm of the breath is only one. It is one I particularly like because it has a discernible resonance. Examples of other dynamics are texture, sound, depth, length, evenness. I like to help people to find the rhythm of their breath because it helps them to attune to other rhythms and movement in their lives. For example, they might notice a particular breathing pattern that is replicated in other situations. After making the association, they change the rhythm in the breath, usually rather easily, and then they notice that changes in the other situations follow naturally.

I notice this correlation frequently with my clients. Of course, discerning such connections does require the ability to read subtle energies. Usually, after I have identified and articulated the correlation to my clients, they relate to the idea. The key is to make changes in the least invasive, most natural ways. Here are two specific examples:

Deidra was having trouble communicating with her boss, characterized by interrupting each other and half-stated ideas. I noticed in her breathing the same pattern of hesitation and shortness, as if she rarely completed either the in-breath or the out-breath. I suggested some exercises that helped her to be more aware of the rhythm of her breathing, which helped significantly, along with some other strategies, to manage herself more effectively with respect to her boss.

Tom had great difficulty when we had to stand in front of a group to speak. He felt unbalanced and had less acute thinking. This, by the way, is a very common dynamic as many people find stand-up presentations stressful. I decided to start with the easiest strategy: some simple breathing exercises to neutralize the old pattern and establish a new rhythm. He practiced daily, and especially before each presentation. The difficulty ceased immediately.

Sometimes the simplest strategies are the most powerful. So, remember to breathe! And, even more specifically, remember to find the rhythm in your breath.

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Nick Niesen

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Nick Niesen
Joined: April 29th, 2015
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