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How to Reduce Stress Using Breath Awareness

You can survive without food for weeks, without water for days but without oxygen for only minutes! But most of us spend very little time thinking about our breath. As the Oxford University Press reminds us, "In earlier years breathing was synonymous with life itself, for with the 'last breath' its absence signified death and departure of the soul." Similarly, in yoga, the Sanskrit word for breath is prana, which also means life force energy.

When we bring our consciousness to our breath, we slow down and we begin to realize the deeper layers of ourselves, our thoughts and feelings. Did you know that when we are under stress some of us actually hold our breath? Other times, we just breath very shallow. We are unconsciously stopping our life force and causing even more stress in our body.

If you start practicing conscious breathing (purposefully focusing on and noticing your breath) your body will relax and the mind will become more focused. The breath can be more than a bodily function, it can be a powerful stress reduction tool and a trusted friend. It is always there for you. When you give your attention to it, it brings you inward, away from all the external, busy-ness and into the present moment. Throughout the book, Practicing The Power of NOW, Eckhart Tolle suggests using the breath as a tool for coming into the NOW. Focus on the breath and the mind naturally slows down while the body relaxes.

The "monkey mind" becomes less jumpy. Most meditation practice includes some form of breath awareness, since it relaxes the body and focus the mind. Try out the following stress reduction strategies. Useful tips: 1.Next time you are feeling tense or confused, shift your focus to your breath.

Notice how your breath is moving in your body (or not moving, if your holding your breath). Then count each inhale and exhale, silently, "One" on the inhale, "Two" on the exhale, etc. 2. For even deeper relaxation, try counting only the exhales.

3. For more concentration, focus on the space between the breath. The space where the exhale becomes the inhale and the inhale becomes the exhale, etc. Practicing breath awareness regularly brings an inner peacefulness and deep relaxation.

As thoughts slow down, and the mind becomes clear, you may become aware of limiting thoughts to release, you may make space for new thought patterns and you may connect with insight and deep wisdom. "Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is only one you know you have for sure" ~ Oprah Windfrey.

Rena Hatch, wise woman life coach, certified yoga teacher empowers women to gain confidence and inner peace through individual life coaching, weekend retreats , free daily guided meditations .

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