Prayer and Breath

Not sure how this one didn’t get published. I had it marked to be published on Sept 11, 2014, but it didn’t get done. So now you get it here!

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In my seminary classes, I’m taking part in an experiment, part of which involves the “Jesus Prayer”. There’s a lot of information about that prayer in your search engine of choice, so I’m not going to add to that list. Feel free to look it up. Part of the practice is a quiet meditation on that short prayer. In this time, I always find myself to be drawn to the way breathing works. I did a short Mantra Monday post about breath, but I want to unpack it a bit more.

We can tell quite a bit about our state through our breath. If someone is anxious, breathing often gets faster and shallower. When we’re relaxed, it slows considerably. And when we are similarity in tune with others, we often may begin to breathe in time with them. It’s really fascinating and was a huge tool for me when I was a music therapist in a hospice. And this idea of breathing has carried forward to prayer and running.

Without belaboring the point, our breathing can also affect our bodies too. When I can establish a healthy rhythm and flow of breathing, the rest of my body relaxes and works more efficiently. If I take shallow breaths, my body goes into panic mode. As a runner and singer, I know this. But I think it’s an important lesson for everyone. Be aware of your breath and, if you have the time, spend a minute quietly breathing. For you yogis or meditation specialists among us, that’s not very much. But most people have a hard time with it.

When I run, I like to establish an asymmetrical pattern of 4 steps inhalation and 3 steps exhalation. I’m not sure why that seems to work best for me, but it does. That pattern, consciously established, has given me something to focus on when I get too tired to think about anything else. It’s a way for me to reinvigorate my body and mind to make the next push. Because, when it all comes to pass, breathing is a powerful way to feed your soul and body. Don’t forget your breathing this week and good luck to all who are racing!

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Do you have any established breathing patterns or exercises? Do you have something you like to focus on when you run or hit the wall?

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