For anyone who writes or studies equal time must be spent in motion to promote balanced health. While the long-term goal is to exercise regularly a slow start with simple foundations serves well. Here I introduce you to the complete breath, it will support any physical efforts you make going forward. The complete breath is performed through the nose.
First, turn your attention to your body. Please do not judge your body. Bring gentle, pleasant attention to it. Choose a posture; standing, seated or lying down where you can comfortably align both sides of the body evenly along the spine. Create as much relaxed distance between the belly and breastbone as possible. Relax your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders. Release your jaw and shoulders. Be certain none of your joints are locked or tight. Once you are relaxed and aligned, exhale completely.
Begin the inhalation by drawing breath onto the bowl of the pelvis. Let the belly move out and away from the spine. Place the hands below the bellybutton to feel the expansion. Think of the way a child’s or a puppy’s belly moves as they breathe in sleep. Let your belly move like that. Then let the breath fill up into the ribs and feel with your hands as the bones there move apart and upward. Feel the space all the way around the torso from the breastbone to the spine following the bones of the ribs.
Let the breath rise all the way to the throat and shoulders and spread across the collarbone. Feel the head floating above the neck and let the ears align over the shoulders. When the lungs are pleasantly full and while still relaxed, begin to exhale. Let the breath escape from the shoulders, slide down the spine and slip from the ribs. Let the belly move toward the backbone and let the bowl of the pelvis tip forward. When all the air is freed pause and begin the cycle again.
Several rounds of complete breath with inward attention make up a complete meditation practice. When your focus strays from the motion of the breath along the spine, simply and gently guide it back, without judging your mind for wandering. Notice if the body becomes tight or breathing is labored and gently return to a relaxed full rhythm.
Deep, relaxed breathing like this stimulates the vagus nerve which controls the parasympathetic nervous system. This nerve runs from the brain to the belly and this response is the equal opposite of the fight or flight reaction. It signals to the body that it is time to rest and digest. Complete breath returns runaway thoughts, anxiety and fear into relationship with the present moment. When we breathe this way we are more connected to awareness and therefore the present moment and our relationships benefit. Practicing this simple, cost free exercise helps us be more mindful of the signs of stress and to calm ourselves deliberately in heated situations.