Your Breath: The Ultimate Master Cleanse

12/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Changing of the seasons is fun when it comes to getting to wear forgotten favorite fall clothes and enjoying homemade treats. Snuggling up in my mom's awesome sweaters from the 70s and enjoying fresh apple pie from the farmers market (reheated in my oven so I can pretend I made it myself) provide me with end-of-year excitement. It's the little things, right?

Chilly weather also has its bite. Hand shakes and hugs loaded up with cold and flu germs, and toxins we endure from our environment are waging war against our bodies. Even if we are eating all organic greens and fresh fruits and vegetables, our bodies are in a tough battle.

It happened to me this week, or did I happen to it? Whatever the perspective, my body decided that it was cold and therefore was time to shut down. Not a big deal, one of those still-functioning "I may be sick if I let myself be" days. Body ache, tiredness, mild headache, all minor but a slight setback.

Before we reach for the master cleanse there may be a more sustainable option. If we've forgotten the functionality of our breath let's bring our attention back to it. I know, it's hard to imagine something being worthwhile unless it's bottled and sold back to us, or a handful of celebrities have caught on, but I can assure you, everyone has access to this sustainable master cleanse. It will get you health when you're sick, and will keep you healthy, relaxed, peaceful, and happy. It's right there inside you and outside you too. You breathe it in. You breathe it out. You breathe it in again. It is your breath.

Our breath is like a lonely puppy. It will be there waiting for you and probably forgive you for your absence and denial once you've re-connected with it. When we are stressed we hold our breath and our bodies tighten up. How we live and where we live are challenges for the body to maintain health. If we practice putting our attention on our breath, and take long deep breaths in stressful situations, our breath can release tension and toxins from areas where our minds and psychologies stand guard. What's happening in our breath, mind, and body are direct reflections of each other. In fact, they are all the same thing. We have a choice. We can hold our breath, live with armor around our bodies, decided minds, and experience what we think we ought to. Things will happen in our lives. We'll tighten up through the hard stuff and the other stuff will be ok. Or we can put our attention on our breath, live in firm but flexible bodies, and open minds. Things will happen in our lives and we'll breathe through them. We'll have the capacity to deal with the tough stuff and the good stuff equally. And we'll have a much easier time finding enjoyment and good health in everything. Life happens no matter how we are breathing. Using our breath gives us a tool to navigate effectively through the body and mind, and enables us to experience something different than what we predict.

In a physical yoga practice there is a huge difference between someone who is muscling their way through a pose and someone who is using the breath to move through the pose. Both people may be in the same pose (shape), but have completely different states of mind. You can see it in their energy and on their faces. Calling on our muscles alone to sustain a pose tires and stresses the mind. Using our breath allows the mind to be calm and the body to go where it can go with ease. Our breath has an intelligence that is working for our bodies and has the potential to calm our minds.

Muscling and forcing our way into something is like squeezing oil out of rock for energy, while our breath is solar power. The breath is a reusable, sustainable resource available to all of us for purposes of maintenance, repair, and reflection. The breath is something we share with everyone. When someone inhales, someone else exhales. We can think of our breath as one collective breath. It's something that is ours and also belongs to everyone else. We can live collectively as a tightly wound world with decided minds, or a flexible, healthy world with an open heart, mind, and clear breath. Our breath makes a difference. The way we breathe makes a difference.

We've all walked into a room occupied by someone who is stressed and holding their breath. Our bodies try to clench up in defense against this stressed person. We hold our breath and await the danger. When we walk into a room that's comfortable or come home to someone who we know is awaiting us with love, our breath automatically deepens. We don't have to protect and clench, we can breathe easily. We also have the power to soften the stressful person just by walking into the room and deepening our breath.

This routine is designed to help us tap into our renewable resource of the breath to release tension in the body and mind. You can try it any time to unwind and put your breath back to work for you. If you are following along the 4-week weight loss plan, this can be done after the sweaty routine from last week. Have fun and stay healthy!