Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What happens when you forget to breathe...

Know what happens when you forget to breathe? I'll let the immortal words of John Cleese from the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch fill you in.

"'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!! "

Okay, so I really just wanted an excuse to post that because it cracks me up every time. What I really wanted to talk about was paying attention to our breathing throughout the day. If you are like the majority of people, the only time you notice your breath during a typical day is when your nose is clogged, you have a cough, an asthma attack, or you have a fright that makes you suck in your breath quickly. We take this fundamental of life for granted throughout our life... and that is by and large the way nature intended it. It is a part of our conscious AND subconscious mind. Breath is also the bridge between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Here's a good way to experience all of this: For the next 3 breaths, breathe through your mouth and change your breathing rate to much faster than normal, something like a panting breath. This is a simulation of what happens when your sympathetic nervous system is engaged (such as in a frightening situation) and by doing this you are now using your conscious mind to breathe. Now deliberately for the next 3 breaths slow your inhale and your exhale in an exaggerated fashion. Really draw out the inhale and focus on it completely and then linger over the exhale with the same dedicated awareness. This is an example of how the parasympathetic nervous system works to regulate heart rate and lower blood pressure in response to stress and another example of conscious breath. To complete the experiment just stop consciously controlling your breath and let it flow naturally. Try going back up and rereading the parrot sketch dialog again then come back here:

When you forget about this exercise, you will notice how your subconscious mind returns your breathing rate back to normal and your parasympathetic system has had a chance to heal your body's earlier stressed response. Here's a great article by Leta Koontz-Stuyvesant describing how yoga utilizes breath to calm the body and focus the mind. YogaMovement.com

Spending even a few moments a day consciously savoring our breath can help us lead a more joy-filled and healthier life. And it just might keep us from being an "ex-parrot"!



Part two of forgetting to breathe.


Lora said...

I remember telling my yoga teacher once that I didn't realize I'd been holding my breath my whole life. :0) One of the many reasons I believe in yoga.

valentine said...

i actually find myself holding my breath most of day, especially while eating....i seem to get hiccups a lot from it.

i think i am gonna try your breathing tips....who knows, maybe i'll enjoy breathing!

Dirty Mouth Mama said...

Great reminder. I use the slow breathing all the time, but never the fast one.

I sat here and took a few breaths

Joanna said...

That is funny! Ex-parrot. hee hee

Thanks for stopping by my blog and reminding me to breathe.

Deanna said...

Namaste. Thanks for the breathing reminder. I don't relish joining the ex-parrot. LOL

Mama Mel said...

Thanx for the breathing reminder. It felt good to take a few deep breaths and relax for a minute. :) Thanx for stopping by my blog! Have a great day!

Night Owl Mama said...

bye bye birdie awww stopping in from the sits

Carolyn said...

Good exercise! Just stopping by from SITS.

Ms Cupcake said...

How true is this. I need to learn to exhale. Thanks for the words of wisdom.

Have a great Thursday!
Ms Cupcake

bodaat said...

very interesting!!

♥ Braja said...

Jan, I have no idea how i found you. Glad I did though. Me? Iyengar girl :)))

Holly Noelle @ Domestic Dork said...

I should really be more mindful of my breathing. I think I hold my breath a lot when I'm anxious.