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Inhale Goodness, Exhale Wellness

Issue 32

by Carole Fontaine

Have you ever noticed how a big sigh can make you feel a bit better when you’re stressed? Or how taking slow breaths can calm you down? Breathing is a secret tool we all have to help us ease our minds and relax our bodies.

Sometimes, when something bothers or upsets me, I notice my breathing changes. It’s my body’s way of telling me to pay attention. When I’m worried, scared, or nervous, my breath gets short and choppy. But by breathing on purpose — slowly and deeply — I can calm myself down.

This helps me control my feelings, calm my nerves, handle stress better, and regulate my nervous system. When my diaphragm relaxes and moves harmoniously with all muscles related to breathing, I feel a deep sense of release. It helps center me and control my inner peace.

Using different breathwork, or pranayama, to create changes in the body has been a building block of most yoga traditions. I have taken these practices off the mat and used them to calm myself while sailing through dangerous storms when I needed a clear mind to navigate, and I have used them to energize myself on late nights working on deadlines.

You can take these practices anywhere in your day-to-day life and empower yourself by knowing that your body is an ally that offers ways to live harmoniously.

Below are some examples. Start each one by closing your eyes and allowing three natural breath cycles to settle yourself as you become present in your inhales and exhales.

Grateful Breath

A beautiful practice is to bless each breath as you observe the ins and outs of normal breathing. Being actively present in the gift of life and breathing brings gratitude and develops mindfulness.

For the next 10 days, take 5 minutes to sit with your eyes closed and breathe naturally. With each inhale, invite love, health, and abundance; with each exhale, release something you are ready to let go of.

Whistle Breath (Calm and Soothing)

My diaphragm is often stuck in the upward position — fight or flight, holding on, pattern. Whistle Breath helps me exhale completely, releasing stagnant energy and making room for nourishing air to reach the far corners of my lungs. I feel lighter, more relaxed, and trusting.

I often practice this before bed after an unusually hectic day. It was also very helpful when I had Covid-19 and bronchitis to relieve my shortness of breath.

  1. Sit cross-legged with your back straight. (I also do it laying down in bed.)
  2. Close your eyes and pucker your lips like you are drinking through a straw or blowing a kiss, and inhale and exhale through your mouth in a slow and natural rhythm. When you exhale, gently pull your navel in toward your spine to fully release the stagnant air and restart the cycle.
  3. Do this for at least 3 minutes. Try it as you whistle — it can instantly lift your mood! (You can whistle on the inhale, the exhale, on both, or make no sound. Try the variations and see which one you prefer.) If you become dizzy or lightheaded, stop and resume normal breathing.

Energizing Breath

Some days when I need to be alert and focused, I rely on breathwork that energizes my body and heightens my senses. I turn to traditional yogic breaths such as Breath of Fire in Kundalini Yoga or similar Bhastrika Pranayama.

  1. Sitting with your back straight, inhale and exhale forcibly through the nostrils in a rapid and rhythmic cycle while pumping the navel and solar plexus back toward the spine.
  2. Do not pause. Let the inhalation come naturally as you concentrate on continuously pumping the belly and expelling the air. Your body should be relaxed with only your belly in action.
  3. Aim for one breath cycle per second, but more importantly, keep a steady rhythm. Start with 1 to 3 minutes. End with one deep breath and release. (Tingling and light-headedness are normal, but if you become dizzy, resume normal breathing. Do not practice while pregnant or menstruating.)

Not sure where your solar plexus is? We’ve got you covered: The solar plexus, nestled between your stomach and rib cage, is your center of personal power. It’s where you get those “gut feelings” that guide you toward inner strength and intuition on your journey to recovery.

Remember that whatever challenge you are facing today, take a deep breath, make space for newness, and let go with grace and gratitude. You’ve got this!

Excerpted in part from the “S.A.I.L. Above the Clouds” series.

Carole Fontaine
Carole Fontaine
Carole Fontaine is the bestselling author of the S.A.I.L. ABOVE THE CLOUDS series which shares adventures from her 20 years of living aboard a sailboat and uses the lessons she learned to teach empowerment, stress relief, and mental wellness. She is a writer, graphic designer, creative muse, Certified Mindfulness Life Coach, Meditative Writing, Shakti Dance® Yoga, and Reiki Master Teacher. She speaks and teaches self-improvement and empowerment workshops on mindset and stress management.

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