Practice conscious breathing and say ... yes

I've come across a great discovery in the past year or so: breathing is a magical process for moving swiftly through life! I've also come to realize that life repeatedly throws each of us into breathing patterns that are stifling. As you read on, ponder how you may benefit from greater awareness of this seemingly simple act.

First, take a snapshot of your breath this very moment. Shut your eyes, and continue breathing for the next minute as you've been doing the past few mo-ments. Note the character of your breath. Fast or slow, shallow or deep? What pattern does the air travel as it flows in and out? What parts of your body seem to be moving in cadence with your breath? Can you feel your spine flex as you breathe? Overall, focus on your breathing for a moment and compare what you notice to the information below.

There are different types of breathing, and our breathing automatically adjusts to what's going on inside of us. If you're startled, your breath may na-turally stop for a moment. With brisk movement, your breath automatically keeps pace with the increased demand for respiration. When you're in a relaxed state, your breathing tends to become slower and deeper. The unconscious breathing mirrors your life experience. Better yet, conscious breathing does, too. Conscious breathing is a chance to intervene on your own behalf.

Breathe deep

Now, think back to what you noticed in your own breathing and consider these facts. A full breath of air stretches the diaphragm, which relieves tension you're holding. Circulation is increasingly abundant as you move down into the lungs, so deep breathing offers the best opportunity for oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange. Seventy percent of toxins are eliminated through respiration. The lymphatic system is stimulated as the diaphragm drops into the abdominal cavity on each full breath. In all, the breath gets things moving and refreshes in the process.

There is also an interrelationship be-tween breathing and the nervous system: chest breathing is stress breathing. During a stress response, the autonomic nervous system prompts the dia-phragm to tighten and drives the breath up into the chest as a component of the defensive measures that occur physiologically. This physiological adaptation is sometimes out of place in our modern-day world where we are inundated with perceived threats. Worse yet, we can get "stuck" in the fight/flight mode, and our well-being suffers if the reset to rest/repair does not occur. The breath can serve as a reentry to the creative nature of our being.

Although there are many approaches to conscious breathing, I'd like to focus on the YES breath for now. Gay Hendricks, Ph.D., coined the term because the movement resembles nodding "yes" with a full-body movement.

And interestingly, it is an effective way of saying YES to life.

Say yes

The YES breath is the most healthful breathing pattern throughout our lifespan. It is consistently observable during the fetal period; is typically present in the early years of childhood; and often becomes stifled sometime during the adolescent years. Beginning in the womb, a fetus will momentarily cease this rhythmic movement when there is some sort of shock. This jolt may arise from maternal smoking, drugs, emotion, violence or similar "threat." In the fetus, the YES rhythm tends to resume within moments. As we move through our lives, the rebound to this healthful flow can become more delayed or even completely absent. The YES breath recaptures it.

Since we can take conscious control of our breathing, we have an option for returning to the flow of vibrancy at will. Practicing several minutes each day helps your nervous system to become re-attuned with this healthful breathing style, and brings forth the awareness to consciously make the shift throughout the day as needed.

I practice the YES breath for my own benefit, and I share the technique with clients. The YES breath helps me to gain alertness first thing in the morning, keeps my body from getting stiff when I spend hours at the computer; smoothes the frustration of upsetting encounters; and clarifies my path amid challenges. The YES breath is an example of learning by doing. My life is certainly not a slam-dunk, but I am breathing my way through it with ever-increasing strength and clarity.

I think the YES breath is especially potent for the sedentary, the stressed and the very young. If you are sedentary, this may be the easiest way to embark upon a fitness program. We all breathe, and the YES breath may lead to finding joy in movement, too. From personal experience, I know the YES breath helps to relieve stress throughout the day. And, I've often thought it would be wonderful to teach all young children the YES breath before life even begins to feel complicated. You, too, may have a special reason for calling upon this gift.

So, have your tried taking a deep breath to regain the feeling of ease? Has it helped? Even though this is a natural act, many of us are in the position of needing to relearn it.


Sit so that you can rock your pelvis on your sit bones; practice just that for a moment-

Notice how the forward and back motion recruits your spine into the movement-

And your head follows, too, naturally nodding YES-

Now allow the breath to come deeply into the abdominal cavity, filling the lungs with the space created by opening your spine, now flexed with belly out-

Begin the exhalation by nodding your head downward and letting the motion reverse (now head-spine-pelvis, closing in that order) to expel the stale air-

Maintain focus on your spinal movement and breathing pattern as you continue-

Just keep noticing what you notice in your body. Do this in a slow, yet exaggerated manner for a couple of minutes. Then, breathe normally and notice the changes have occurred for you.

There's a lot more to gain from conscious breathing, and hopefully this introduction has inspired you to experiment a bit. The breath is what keeps us alive - truly alive!

Julie Glassmoyer is a reflexologist serving the Eastside. For more information, visit or call 445-7949.

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