We know that the act of breathing is essential for survival. However, how often do we create space in our lives to focus on what our bodies do automatically? Most of the time we barely notice and almost always take this action for granted. Outside of sports, yoga and meditation, who consciously thinks about breathing? Breathe in. Breathe out. Seems pretty simple, right? Not quite.
This year, we had an opportunity to pause from the usual joys and challenges of daily life to spend an eye-opening evening with Dr. Brad Lichtenstein, a naturopathic physician in private practice and a professor at Bastyr University. A wonderful speaker and storyteller, Dr. Lichtenstein shared a little bit about his background and how he became interested in this conversation around breath and life. A poignant moment of the session was when he shared that he provided 500 guided meditations to hospice patients and saw remarkable results showing first hand that practicing breath work could make pain disappear. He believes in the power of breathing to restore health and balance and very early on he had the audience’s full attention.
Quoting Benjamin Franklin “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn,” he quickly involved the group in an engaging exercise calling our attention to take notice of our breath. He provided guiding questions including: What breathes first? Where does it begin? Is the inhale or exhale longer or are they the same? Is there a pause at the end of the inhale? At the end of the exhale? Fairly soon into the exercise our attention to our breathing began to seem so obvious. The room was breathing in, and breathing out. Why isn’t this something that we are taught in school? The breath is what carries us through each and every day yet we did not know the answers to these questions. This is curious given it’s something we do every day. Once we closed our eyes we were able to focus our attention on respiration. Our “in” breath, our “out” breath. Noticing the subtle sensations.
Over the course of the evening, Dr. Lichtenstein demonstrated how controlling our breath also helps us to control our mind, which in turn affects our body’s resilience and ultimately our life and relationships. He walked us through the aspects of functional breathing and shared compelling reasons why it is beneficial to make focusing on our breathing a daily practice. The most notable benefits include: releasing stress, improving sleep, reducing anxiety, and even eliminating the need for medications for common ailments. Dr. Lichtenstein said that according to research, with 20 minutes a day of breathing practice, 5 days a week, we can rewire our nervous systems and help our bodies find a balanced state. When we realize the full potential of functional breathing we can strengthen the calm responses, come back into balance and build resiliency in our bodies.
A big thank you to Dr. Lichtenstein for spending an evening with us, and for allowing us to incorporate breathing practice into our daily lives by sharing the guided meditations on The Breath Space and the app suggestions (BreatheSync and MyCalmBeat). We are looking forward to adding focused breathing practice to our daily self-care routine. With a bit of practice, may we all go gently, breathing easier.