Someone wrote to me:

As far as I know, I’m breathing 1440 minutes a day – what exactly do you mean by breathing for 15 minutes twice a day? Meditating for 15 minutes twice a day?

All of us breathe all day, mostly without awareness. We breathe automatically. We have habitual patterns of breathing that we use without noticing. The primary pattern of our life is our pattern of breathing. When we are trying to change other patterns in our life, it behooves us to work with the pattern of our breath.

Usually, our habitual patterns of breathing have us using only part of our lung capacity. Do you have an anatomy book? Look at the lungs. Our lungs are quite large, they are meant to fill our entire chest cavity. Do you know that your lungs reach all the way up to your collar bone? On the right, our lungs have three lobes (like sacks, waiting to be filled with breath). We have two lobes on the left because our heart takes up some space there.

During the day, try to notice how you breathe. Do you use just the tops of your lungs? the front? What part of your chest expands when you breathe? Just the front? Does your chest expand to the back? the sides? Pay attention and notice how you breathe. When you sit twice a day to breathe, you can practice using more and more of your lung capacity.

Here’s a breath you can try if you like. But first, a bit more anatomy. Your heart (which is contained within its own sack, the pericardium) is nestled in between the lobes of your left lung and is also touched by the lobes of your right lung. When you inflate your lungs completely, they press on your heart. Your heart is surrounded by the touch of your lungs. I think of this as hugging your heart. When you don’t breathe completely, your heart is left alone, unhugged.

The Hug Your Heart Breath

For the first 5 minutes of your breathing practice, try the Hug Your Heart Breath. Fill your lungs completely. See if you can get a sense of your lungs pressing into your heart. The heart knows the touch of the lungs, and knows when it is not present. Which it seldom is. Little shallow breaths do not allow your lungs to touch your heart.

Many of us have experienced a yearning to be connected, to be known, to be received. That yearning is a thing of the heart. It is a multi-leveled yearning, and it has a physical component — the heart yearning for the touch of the lungs. The Hug Your Heart Breath will teach you that connection is possible and that your yearning can be met.

This is a particularly useful breath for people who struggle with feelings of abandonment, neglect, aloneness.

So as you breathe for 15 minutes twice a day, don’t forget to hug your heart!