Return to Your Breath
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Use your breathing to reduce stress.
- Describe how to connect with your body to relax.
Why Your Breath Is so Important
Even though your body is physically present, there are a lot of things that happen throughout the day that can take your mind elsewhere. Awareness of your breath brings your mind back to your body and gives you feedback about how your body and mind are doing. You might be surprised by how much your breath can tell you.
Your Breath Is Your Anchor
Is it long or short? Labored or relaxed? Smooth or jagged? By simply taking notice of your breath, you’re already engaging in mindfulness—pretty easy, right? Notice that your breath becomes more relaxed right away. With your mind focused on each breath, you no longer focus on your anxiety and worry. You become more present and aware of your body.
Let’s take a moment to come back to your breath with this 5-minute meditation led by Sister True Dedication.
Step-by-Step Returning to Your Breath Exercise
- Take a moment to notice the flow of air coming in and going out of your nose, or the natural rise and fall of your abdomen.
- Return to the questions above: Is your breath long or short? Labored or relaxed? Just observe for now without trying to change anything, like watching waves come and go on the beach.
- As you continue to be aware of your breath, silently say to yourself, “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out. In… out... ” and so on.
- You don’t need to control the breath—simply feel the breath as it is. With your awareness, it naturally becomes slower and deeper, because your breathing begins to reflect the more relaxed state of your body and mind.
- Next, follow your in-breath, from the beginning, as it enters your nostrils and through to your lungs. Do the same with the out-breath, notice your lungs expelling the air as it moves up through your throat and out through the nostrils. You can silently say to yourself, “Breathing in, I follow the in-breath from its beginning to the end. Breathing out, I follow the out-breath from its beginning to the end.”
- At any time—while you are walking, working on the computer, or in a meeting—you can return to this peaceful exercise to refocus.
Connect with Your Body
Feeling zen? So are we. But you can notice just how quickly stress and distractions can creep in and disrupt your new-found focus. When you find yourself caught in a cycle of anxiety or distraction, it can be helpful to experience deeper relaxation by performing a body scan.
This is all about bringing your mind’s attention to your body. When we check in with our body and how we’re feeling, we’re able to become deeply relaxed and focused on caring for ourselves in that moment.
Take 15 minutes to give it a try with this guided body scan led by Sister True Dedication.
Step-by-Step Body Scan Exercise
- In a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, find a comfortable position either sitting or lying down.
- Bring all of your awareness to your breath, noticing the rise and fall of your abdomen.
- Keep your mind focused on the rising of your abdomen with the in-breath, and the falling of your abdomen with the out-breath.
- Once you feel settled in your position, become aware of your body’s sensations, including any tension or resistance. Common areas that hold tension are your shoulders, chest, arms, or hands.
- With the in-breath, bring your attention to this area of tension, and with the out-breath relax that area to release this tension.
- When you feel completely relaxed, begin to notice all the areas of your body that are in contact with the floor or chair—your feet, your heels, the backs of your legs, your back, your arms, your legs, your shoulders—each are supported.
- From this place of profound relaxation, continue to follow your breathing, not allowing yourself to become distracted by thoughts of the outside world. Notice them, like clouds in the sky, and let them go, returning to follow your in- and out-breaths.
- Continue with this practice for 10 to 15 minutes (or as long as your schedule will allow). Afterward, you should feel rested, refreshed, and ready to continue on with your day!
Thanks for taking a few minutes to rest with us, listen to your body, and learn about how mindfulness can transform the way you live and work. The American Psychological Association reports that by simply increasing your awareness, that is, practicing more mindfulness, you reduce stress levels, improve focus and attention, build resiliency, and more.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, in the next unit we dive deeper into how you can bring mindfulness into activities throughout your day. In the meantime, we hope you feel relaxed and equipped with techniques for you and your team to begin embracing mindfulness in your everyday lives.