There’s not much we do as thoughtlessly as breathing. We should thank God for that. Can you imagine concentrating on something so hard that you forget to breathe and find yourself passed out on the floor–or worse? Unlike our heart rate, all of us have some control over our breathing. When we regulate our breathing we can convince our bodies to calm down and let go of accumulated stresses. How often have you been coached “just take a deep breath” in the middle of a stressful situation? Something as simple as inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly has a direct affect on our physical bodies and can also have a calming affect on our minds.
To me, I can see at least 2 spiritual practices that pertain to breathing. The first is a simple awareness of the stresses your body is carrying around and releasing those to Jesus. The second is actually imagining God’s presence coming to you through your breathing in a practice called “breath prayers.” Today we’ll practice the awareness piece.
Find a comfortable place and position for yourself, seated or lying down, it doesn’t really matter. Set aside 5-10 minutes for this practice. If you get easily distracted by wondering how much time has passed, set a timer–although try to make it a gentle chime rather than a disruptive buzz.
With a hand on your abdomen, take a deep breath through your nose. Try to fill your lungs to their capacity–you should push your hand out in front of you.
Now, exhale slowly through your mouth. Try to push the air out of your lungs from your abdomen up–your hand should come in towards your body.
Repeat this several times.
Breathe normally and pay attention to your body. Is there anything that seems tight that shouldn’t be? Or perhaps something kept coming into your mind and interrupted your concentration on your breathing?
Envision Jesus standing in front of you, and put that worry, that stress, that tightness in his hands. Let yourself imagine what he does with it.
Make sure you keep breathing! As you exhale, you may need to release that stress or worry again, or even repeatedly.
When your time is up, change position slowly and reflect. How do you feel compared to when you started? Were you able to let go of any difficult life circumstances or stresses and put them in Jesus’ hands? Do you think this might be a helpful practice for you to continue?
For a more straightforward approach to deep breathing exercises, I found this Christian counselling practice’s page. To avoid the rather labored version of Pachelbel’s Cannon, just turn down your computer’s sound or refuse to let the page use Flash.