This morning I awoke to the tall, deep green trees outside my window blowing around in big, strong gusts of wind.  The winds are accompanied by a beautiful, cool, winter morning light.  I sit with hot tea warming my hands and watch the first rays of sunlight begin to fill the sky and my husband says to me, it’s a  “winterful” kind of day. 

What a perfect way to describe the beauty of winter that has enfolded around us. It’s freezing cold outside, so I wouldn’t exactly call it a comfortable or a wonderful day, but it is beautiful in its own, intimidating way.  My first winter here in Portland has been like that.  It has been icy and snowy, overwhelming, and magical all at the same time.  We have been stuck in our house for weeks at a time, due to Portland’s love for the environment and lack of salt and snow plows. Also, because I don’t exactly know how to drive in snow or ice… I’d rather stay inside where it’s cozy and warm. 🙂

The air is crisp and clean with smells of pine, earth and cedar.  At night it smells of wood burning fires mixed with fresh rain. It reminds me to breathe deeply, as I can’t help but to try to take it all in. 

Deep, belly breathing uses the deepest, lowest part of our lungs. It brings in fresh air and nourishment to our body. This type of breathing calms our nervous system. Like taking a warm, soothing bubble bath, belly breathing signals our body that it is time to rest and renew.

Our daily lives can be stressful and when we check into our breath we may find that it is shallow, jerky and/or rigid, an upper chest type of breath.

Check it out for yourself. Close your eyes and notice your own breath. Is it shallow or deep? Rigid or flowing? Where do you feel the breath? Unless you have just come from a yoga class, it is probably relatively shallow.

Our shallow breathing signals our primitive nervous system that we are in distress, so it begins to prepare itself, becoming stronger and more motivated in order to help us survive the attack. We begin to breathe shallowly, and the mind reads “Oh no- danger!!” This is really important from an evolutionary standpoint because it is how our species survived. Which is pretty remarkable, but not so useful in today’s modern world. When was the last time it made sense for you to run from a tiger? Or traffic?

In order to adapt to our modern day world, we have to notice our breath and remind our body that we are okay, that there is nothing that needs to be done. Belly breathing tells our body that we are safe.

This is where the exercise ‘Breathing in Beauty’ can be helpful!  First, imagine a time when you were outside in nature and saw something that was beyond beautiful. There have been many time but let’s just pick one.  As you imagine that place, remember all of the scents and smells. Breathe in and imagine deeply inhaling this space, smelling the ocean breeze or the fresh pine, gently pause, savoring it, and then exhale gently through the mouth.  Try this for a few minutes and then check in on your breath and well being again and see what you discover. 

If you would like to learn more, I have put also put together a 6 Step Belly Breathing exercise and meditation for you HERE.

As always, I would love to hear about your experience with Breathing in Beauty, please share below!