Since moving to California I’ve become more aware of my breath. I took up yoga, for example, where coordinating movement with breath is a core concept.
When I learned to scuba dive, breath was a matter of life or death. I did not want to run out of air down there, and I quickly learned that my anxiety about dying underwater in all the many ways that could occur was lessened if I instead focused on my breath.
Meditation is another practice I started after moving here, and again a prime way to calm the mind for meditation is to focus on your breath.
Acting as well. I took a voice class (meant to help with public speaking), and the first lesson and the first portion of each subsequent class we spent working on our breath, as without having good breath we cannot give voice to our thoughts or those of our characters. I can only project to the audience in the back of the room by focusing on deeply breathing. Singing too, of course.
If I am feeling down or anxious or worried, simply spending a few minutes to celebrate my ability to deeply breath helps remind me of how wonderful it is to have the seemingly simple pleasure of automatically taking in air.
Last time I was anxious and felt my stomach starting to get nervous, I forced myself to sit still for a few moments and relax and breathe, and it made all the difference.
When I gave birth to my first child, I used focusing on my breath, and on his passage to life, rather than an epidural to make my way through labor (though I went with the epidural for child #2).
I sometimes imagine what it will be like when I take my last breath, or if, ailing, dying, knowing the end is near I will finally value the miracle that is my ability to breath in fresh air, and wish I hadn’t taken it for granted every other minute of my life. Breath is one of those common miracles easily overlooked, but well worth honoring.