In my last two posts, I talked about ways that we can use the breath as a calming practice by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Because so many of us spend much of our time with our sympathetic nervous system overstimulated, the introduction of calming practices is something that most of us will find the most beneficial.
However, there are times (like that afternoon slump) when we need something that will perk us up a bit and help us stay more alert. In moments like these, many of us reach for caffeine or sugar to achieve this energy boost, but both of these substances can have problematic side effects.
Fortunately, the breath can be used as a means of perking us up as well as for calming us! We have already explored the way that increasing the exhalation relative to the inhalation can bring a calming effect. The reverse is also true: increasing the inhalation relative to the exhalation brings an energizing effect.
The breath of joy, also known as the conductor breath or mad conductor’s breath, is a great way to do this because it includes this lengthening of the inhale relative to the exhale with physical movement to perk us up.
The breath of joy is performed standing and includes three inhales for each exhale. The steps to performing this breath are as follows:
- 1st inhale: sweep arms in front of body to overhead, then lower
- 2nd inhale: sweep arms out to sides to level with shoulders, then lower
- 3rd inhale: sweep arms in front of body back to overhead
- Exhale with a “HAAA” while sweeping arms down and bending over to allow arms to swing by knees
The YouTube video below may be helpful in seeing what this looks like. Notice how the expression on the face of the person performing the breath changes over the course of time. There is a reason this is called the Breath of Joy!