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Embracing the Power of Intentional Breath: Restoring Balance to the Nervous System and Our Lives

A doodle from Carrie's Art Studio

Thich Nhat Hanh: “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

In the hurried dance of modern life, where anxiety often shadows our steps, intentional breath emerges as a sanctuary, a beacon of calm amidst the chaos. The power of breath is not just physiological but deeply poetic, touching the very essence of our being. When anxiety strikes, our breath becomes shallow, quickening our heart and scattering our thoughts. Yet, within this involuntary act lies the key to grounding and nourishing ourselves.

Intentional breath, the conscious act of breathing deeply and slowly, anchors us in the present moment. It is a proactive practice, a way to prepare and arm ourselves against the inevitable waves of fear and panic that life throws our way. By cultivating a mindful relationship with our breath, we create a refuge within, a place we can always return to for solace and strength.

Breathing and Anxiety

Every one of us has felt the grip of anxiety. It is a universal experience, whether it’s the result of a looming deadline, a difficult conversation, or the unpredictable turns of life. In these moments, our breath often betrays us, becoming rapid and erratic. But with intention, we can transform our breath from a reaction to a response, from a symptom to a solution.

Breath fuels the essence of our being, infusing our cells with life and energy. It is a silent partner in our journey, always there, always ready to support us. Our relationship with breath is a mirror of our relationship with life itself. When we breathe fully and deeply, we live fully and deeply. When our breath is constricted, our experience of life also feels restricted.

Your Relationship with Breath

James Nestor’s book “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art” delves into this profound connection. Nestor explores how many of us have a disrupted relationship with breath, often breathing through our mouths, taking shallow breaths, and missing the full benefits of this vital act. He reveals that by reclaiming our breath, we can transform our health, reduce anxiety, and enhance our overall well-being.

To reclaim our breath, we must first become aware of it. Pay attention to how you breathe throughout the day. Are your breaths shallow or deep? Are you breathing through your nose or mouth? Once you have this awareness, you can begin to make intentional changes.

5 Ways to reclaim your relationship with Breath

Here are some pointers to help you reclaim your relationship with breath and soothe your nervous system:

  1. Nasal Breathing: Breathing through your nose filters, warms, and humidifies the air, making it more beneficial for your body. It also encourages slower, deeper breaths.
  2. Diaphragmatic Breathing: Also known as belly breathing, this technique involves breathing deeply into your diaphragm rather than shallowly into your chest. Place a hand on your belly and feel it rise and fall with each breath.
  3. 4-7-8 Breathing Technique: Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four, hold the breath for a count of seven, and exhale completely through your mouth for a count of eight. This technique can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
  4. Box Breathing: Inhale for four counts, hold the breath for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold again for four counts. This method helps to regulate your breath and calm your mind.
  5. Mindful Breathing: Take a few moments each day to sit quietly and focus solely on your breath. Notice the sensation of the air entering and leaving your body. This practice can enhance your awareness and connection to your breath.

By embracing these practices, you cultivate a relationship with your breath that is intentional and nurturing. You create a wellspring of calm within, a steady anchor in the stormy seas of anxiety. The power of intentional breath lies not only in its ability to ground and nourish us but also in its capacity to transform our experience of life itself. When we breathe with intention, we live with intention, embracing each moment with a serene and open heart.


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