Intentional Breathing Is a Mind, Body & Spirit Practice

Just Breathe

14 years ago I served as a hospital chaplain resident and my former supervisor invited me to make sure and take a deep breath in and out before I entered a patient’s room in order to slow down and enter the present moment. This simple and yet sage advice is something that has helped me immensely over the years. My supervisor knew I tended to move at the speed of lightning and he was gently encouraging me to work on the art of being in the present moment.

All these years later, I am still a doer and the intentional work of living in the breath and in the present moment is still something I have to deliberately focus upon. But when I do engage in deep breathing, I notice something shift in me. The tightness in my chest and shoulders starts to dissipate somewhat and I find more freedom in my body.

Breathing is a mind, body and spirit practice. Breathing helps us mentally because it stimulates the release of feel good chemicals in the brain, like oxytocin and serotonin, which boosts our mood. Breathing is a physical practice because when we practice it, we create more oxygen, which can help relieve pain in our bodies. Breathing is also a spiritual practice because the Hebrew word for spirit is ruach, which is found in both Jewish and Christian scripture and can be translated as wind, spirit or breath. In yoga, the Sanskrit word, prana, can be translated as breath, movement or life force. As we consciously tap into our breath, we become aware of the spirit of God within us.

So how often do you allow yourself to reap the mental, physical and spiritual rewards of breathing? What can you let go of through the breath today? I invite you to set an intention to be more cognizant to breathe deliberately in your daily life. Breathing can calm your spirit and helps us to enter the present moment.

I have worked with hospice patients for over 12 years. In this sacred work, I have watched people struggle to breathe as they near the end of their journey and I have been with many patients as they have taken their very last breath. My work in end of life care is a constant reminder that death is our fundamental vulnerability and also reminds me that to breathe is to live. So I encourage you to be mindfully aware of the life and breath within you. To breathe is to be alive. Deep intentional breathing can help us to externalize the pain we hold inside of us and it can alleviate our fears by bringing us into the present moment.

Please consider practicing the following meditation by placing your left palm on your chest where your heart is and your right palm on top of the left hand. Begin breathing from your belly button and breath all the way to your chest and then pause between your inhale and exhale, and then release the breath from your chest back to your belly button. Take a few more breaths in order to be aware of the life within you. When you are ready you can say these words in your mind’s eye as you deeply breathe in and out.

Breathe in peace…Breathe out anxiety 

Breathe in comfort…Breathe out sadness

Breathe in hope…Breathe out despair

Breathe in gentleness…Breathe out anger

Breathe in grace…Breathe out judgment

Breathe in stillness…Breathe out your busy schedule

Breathe in this very moment…Breathe out your worries

Breath in the new year of 2019…Breathe out the difficulties of 2018

As we enter 2019 we often set intentions and resolutions for this New Year. Perhaps one of your intentions can be to live more consciously in your breath and acknowledge the force of life radiating through your body. I encourage you to find spaces in your day to intentionally slow down and breathe as a means of letting go of anxiety, savoring the present moment and finding gratitude for the profound gift to be alive.

Let’s take some deep breaths today,


I originally wrote the article above for the Mountain Mirror.

Meditations for your mental, physical, and spiritual health