For me, breath is a balancer. It gives me a place to come back to. If I’m angry, I breathe, I meditate and I think about the source of that anger. If I’m working out and feel like giving up, I breathe in rhythm with my body, I focus on where my breath is moving, what parts of my body it fills. If I’m happy, I collect myself with breath and remind myself that it’s important not to magnify success or failure. Breathing grounds me. And while it seems pretty basic to “just breathe” we often forget that breath can be used in many different ways. So, here are a few alternative ways to think about and use your breath throughout the day. 

Morning Breath

It’s smelly but it’s worth it…What do you do when you wake up in the morning? Chances are you check your phone, peruse Facebook, see how many new likes you’ve gotten on Instagram, you may hit the snooze button a few times or log on to your computer to finish that work you forgot to do last night.

We normally don’t give ourselves enough time to enter into the day. We rush; we immediately plug-in. Instead of going straight for your iPhone, try staying in your bed right after waking up, with your palms facing up and body relaxed. Take a deep inhale through your nose and count to ten, then exhale through your mouth for another ten counts. Repeat this four or five times. Once you’ve practiced this try adding daily intentions into your breathing ritual.

Breathe Before You Speak

We’ve all heard the phrase, “think before you speak”. Some of us more than others (guilty as charged!). It’s important to think about what you want to say before you say it, especially in high stakes situations. The same holds true for breathing. Staying connected to your breath in moments of emotional distress can help you stay calm and think clearly. 

Try this: The next time you’re angry or upset take a moment to breathe. If you’re with someone, step out of the room. If you’re alone and it’s available lie down on the ground or on a bed. If not, sit or stand in a relaxed position. Close your eyes and breathe as deeply as you can. Try to focus on breathing through your diaphragm, a muscle in your lower abdomen. To find it put your hand under your belly button and push your stomach muscles out as you breathe in. When your lungs feel full take one extra sip of air. Hold the air inside of you for five seconds and then put your lips in a whistling shape and breathe the air out as slowly as you can. Do this as many times as it takes to slow down your heart rate and feel more emotionally grounded. 

Make Your Body Breathe

When you’re feeling stressed try rolling your spine down and hanging your arms to the floor. Soften your knees and grab elbows with opposite hands. Take a few breaths here. Now try to breathe into your lower back, then your middle back and finally your upper back. If you had to choose a color for your breath what color would it be? Think about that color filling up your lungs, flowing through your arms and legs and loosening up the back of your neck. Using breath as a way to relax by moving it through your body and visualizing it is a great way to relax and even get rid of those pesky knots and muscle tension. 

Whether its to relax, to find words or to feel more present, breath is a powerful tool. It is always there when you need it and can truly make you feel more awake, aware, open and connected to yourself and your world. So feel free to just take a breath.