The Delicious Breath or Why Breathe Intentionally

Dec 4, 2012 by


This familiar instruction sounds so simple.

Though breath accompanies us throughout our lives, we generally give it little conscious attention. Watching babies breathe is a good starting point for an investigation of breathing. If you’ve watched babies breathe, you’ve probably noticed their full-bellied movement as air enters and exits. Breaths taken when tension isn’t present are rhythmical, easy and responsive to the needs of the body. My small sampling of children’s breathing indicates a change from easy breath to fight-or-flight breath as children adapt to school.

Have you been sitting at your desk and noticed your shoulders are lifted and squeezed into the center? You are experiencing a minor fight-or-flight event. Here’s a medical description:

“When our fight or flight response is activated, sequences of nerve cell firing occur and chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are released into our bloodstream. These patterns of nerve cell firing and chemical release cause our body to undergo a series of very dramatic changes. Our respiratory rate increases. Blood is shunted away from our digestive tract and directed into our muscles and limbs, which require extra energy and fuel for running and fighting. … Our perception of pain diminishes. …” (Neil F. Neimark, M.D. at

Yoga in contrast, introduces us to traveling in the opposite direction. Intentional three-part breath (dirgha breath), a breath common to yoga practice,  expands the lungs to their fullness, releasing tension in the muscles surrounding the lungs and quieting the chemical dumping that anxiety promotes. As this occurs, relaxation moves throughout the body, the mind is soothed and we re-gain a sense of power and ease. Maintaining and deepening focus on the easy flow of dirgha breath circulates life-force, connects body, mind & spirit and the breath becomes … the ‘delicious’ breath!

Fun exercise: Watch your breathing patterns throughout your day (your ‘watching’ ability develops over time). Notice how your breathing alters when an emotional event arises – breath and emotions are intimately connected. If you find yourself in fight-or-flight breath, deliberately move into a slow, deep breath and let your breath draw your attention inward. As you continue breathing consciously, you’ll find the ‘delicious’ breath and will no longer be a captive of the fight-or-flight experience.    NOTE: These instructions are to be enjoyed freely whenever tense moments threaten to over-whelm you!

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    • Breathe. When you start feeling oervwhelmed from multitasking, take a breather. Collect your thoughts and refocus. It’s amazing what a few deep breaths can do for a person’s sanity.

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