Take a Deep Breath…
For centuries, the act of conscious breathing has been used as an antidote to the chaos of our outer and inner worlds. Used by the likes of Zen Masters, Native American Indians, and various tribes in Africa, meditative breathing is a truly global practice. It goes way beyond the stereotypical image of Buddhist monks chanting on mountain tops.
This ancient wisdom is trusted by many and available to all of us at all times.
What’s more, every breathing pattern has a corresponding psychological, emotional, physiological, and psychospiritual effect on us.
Intrigued? Then take a deep breath and read on…
To help us tap into the power of the breath and how it can help us become more resilient, we were joined at Mindvalley University by the world’s pioneering expert in the field of breathwork – Dan Brulé.
When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Breathing
So what does all this have to do with resilience? Can you really build emotional strength through breathwork?
Resilience, according to Dan Brulé, is about “getting comfortable with movement, comfortable with changes, comfortable with extremes, and comfortable with your feelings.” So are conscious breathing and meditation.
He says, “to be resilient is to be adaptable and flexible. Quick to surrender, quick to flow with things, and quick to recover. Resilience is about being able to bounce back. And more importantly, I feel it’s about the ability to bounce forward.“
Even when we’re in the midst of stress, anxiety, depression, anger, conflict, and fear, breathing consciously will help us return to our center place. “When we’re in that center place, we’re in the eye of a storm and everything is happening, but it’s not happening to us. We have the breath to fall into. A place of mindfulness, a place of awareness, the present moment.“
When we breathe slowly and deeply, it’s a symbol of resilience in slow motion. Evolution happens gradually and gently, and so does the building of emotional agility in a fast-paced world.
Ready to give it a go? As you read this article at your own pace, you may also choose to breathe along and practice.
The following guided breathing session was shared by Dan Brulé at Mindvalley University Online 2020 and has been adapted for the purposes of this article.
Everything Begins With Awareness
Tune into your breathing right now.
As you read, pay close attention to your breath. If you want to develop emotional resilience, practice the incredible exercise of staying focused on your breathing when you’re under pressure, in the midst of chaos, or even within day-to-day activities.
When you’re stuck in traffic. When someone’s insulting you. When someone’s praising you. When you’re washing the dishes. When you’re listening to music…
How are you breathing? How do you know if you’re breathing?
Breathing is happening always, but we only notice it for a fraction of the time. Let’s become very aware of it right now.
Pick up every sensation, from the tip of your nose, through the sinuses, to the lungs, and back up again.
Feel the breath swirl inwards and outwards as your chest expands and relaxes. Feel its movement as the belly fills and empties.
At this moment, as you read, you’re practicing pure breath awareness.
You’re not doing the breathing. You’re not doing anything. You’re being a witness. The breath is breathing you.
Getting Active On the Inhale
Next, you’ll be turning the breathing up a little. You’re not just a witness now. You’re getting more and more involved.
Start by ‘turning it up by 5%’. Make the in-breath a little more expansive, a little fuller, freer and deeper. Make your inhales more complete — stretching and moving towards the extremes of fullness.
And when you’re ready to exhale, let the breath go with no effort at all.
The inhale is active, the exhale is passive. Let the breath pour out of you by itself. Don’t do the exhale, do the inhale and let the exhale be a reflex.
Practice for a few rounds, then channel the energy of a ‘sigh of relief’ on the exhale.
Breathe in actively and deeply, then allow yourself a sigh of relief. Not just a normal sigh, but an exaggerated, theatrical sigh after an exhale that’s twice as big as normal.
Here, we calm our primal ‘lizard brain’ which is responsible for our primitive survival instincts. We have a part of our brain that watches every breath we take. Based on the data, an ancient part of our nervous system reacts.
When you shallow breathe or hold your breath, that sends a message of emergency. When you breathe slowly and consciously, your ‘lizard brain’ responds:
‘Everything must be really good out there. I must be very safe.’
Now we’ll switch. From now on, we’re focusing on an active exhale as opposed to the inhale.
Breathe in softly, then start by squeezing the breath out slowly, paying attention to your belly as you pull it towards your spine.
To facilitate emptying the lungs completely, make a ‘shhh’ sound as you breathe out, and pull up your perineum slightly.
Pause. Feel how the breath pours into you as you inhale passively and effortlessly.
You don’t have to pull the breath in. You squeeze the breath out, every drop, then the breath naturally and automatically rushes in.
Do that for a few cycles and notice how you feel.
Afterward, you may switch to the active inhale and passive exhale again. Fluctuate, going back and forth with these techniques.
Practice until you feel relaxed and centered, regardless of what’s going on around you.
This is the place where resilience is born.
More Meditative Support From Mindvalley
If you enjoyed this content, be sure to share it with your loved ones.
For more support with regards to breathwork and wellbeing, check out Mindvalley’s The M Word Quest with one of the world’s leading experts in the field of meditation — Emily Fletcher. You’ll find guided meditation as well as learning the three ways you can make your life richer with meditation.