MIND­FUL BREATH­ING

Santa Fe New Mexican - Healthy Living - - NEWS -

Breath­ing may be es­sen­tial to life, but sci­en­tists are just be­gin­ning to tap into its trans­for­mauve power. Mind­ful breath­ing is an um­brella for two re­lated prac­tices, both used in yoga: con­scious breath­ing and con­trolled breath­ing. With the former, the prac­ti­tioner sim­ply places at­ten­tion on the breath, ob­serv­ing and feel­ing; in the later, the per­son con­trols in­hala­tions and ex­ha­la­tions. Ac­cord­ing to Michelle Du­Val, di­rec­tor of The Mind­ful Cen­ter in Al­bu­querque and a lead­ing provider of mind­ful­ness train­ing in the South­west, con­scious and con­trolled breath­ing com­mu­ni­cates to the body that the stress re­sponse — de­signed to help a hu­man be­ing sur­vive — isn't needed. "Of­ten the stress re­sponse is trig­gered in­ap­pro­pri­ately, from work dead­lines or your kids fight­ing, [which] has noth­ing to do with sur­vival. But the body doesn't al­ways know the dif­fer­ence," she said. Stress height­ens con­di­tions such as anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and in­som­nia: How can a per­son be calm, be happy or sleep rest­fully when his or her body feels threat­ened? Of­ten, in to­day's so­ci­ety, the pres­sure and chaos keep the stress re­sponse ac­ti­vated. Breath­ing switches it off. "When we re­di­rect at­ten­tion to the breath, it's out of con­text with the threat of demise. You can move your body from a stress re­sponse into a re­lax­ation re­sponse within five to to breaths," she said. Mind­ful breath­ing of­fers many of the ben­e­fits of med­i­ta­tion but can be more ap­proach­able for those who balk at the "hours in the lo­tus po­si­tion" idea that med­i­ta­tion can in­spire. There are myr­iad ways to make the prac­tice a habit, from fol­low­ing the re­minders on fit­ness watches to down­load­ing apps, such as Headspace, that pro­vide guid­ance. Du­Val rec­om­mends start­ing by do­ing five con­scious breaths five times a day. She also ad­vises cou­pling the prac­tice with things al­ready hap­pen­ing — wak­ing up, ar­riv­ing at work, ar­riv­ing home. She sug­gests sit­ting up­right to avoid doz­ing off. "I en­cour­age peo­ple not to negate the gift of such a sim­ple prac­tice," she said. You don't have to med­i­tate 20 min­utes or more ev­ery day. "You just have to do this prac­tice with a lot of con­sis­tency and reg­u­lar­ity to keep your body in the re­lax­ation re­sponse. I find that the prac­tice grad­u­ally ex­pands to more breaths, more fre­quently, through­out the day."

Clock­wise from top left, Yoga Vidya teacher Bob­bie Fultz in her Santa Fe stu­dio with stu­dents Stacy Pain­ter (in white and black shirt) and Louisa Put­nam (red shirt). Melissa Spamer cur­rently teaches weekly classes at Yo­gaSource in Santa Fe. Yo­gaSource...

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