A POWERFUL PRACTICE INVOLVING BOTH SMILING AND BREATHING
“Smiling is science both ancient and modern. The power of a genuine smile to uplift our spirits and help heal us is profound and healing and empowering. Whether it is directed toward others or ourselves or is simply an expression of our innermost being, a genuine smile says ‘yes’ to the miracle and mystery of love and life.”–Dennis Lewis, quoted in “Smile! The Secret Science of Smiling”
The next time you are feeling negative for any reason, or are experiencing pain, stress, or anxiety, think of or visualize someone who brings a smile to your face. If you are unable to do so, put a smile on your face anyway. However ludicrous it may seem to you, just “put on a smiling face.” Though it may feel unnatural at first, keep smiling for at least a two minutes and it will soon become natural—and genuine. (I’ve done it thousands of times; it works.) Once you are smiling, direct your smile inwardly into your whole body, allowing it to penetrate into all the cells, organs, tissues, and so on that your life depends on.
Now, keeping the smile on your face, rub your hands together until they are warm and put them, one on top of the other, on your navel. Sense the warmth and energy coming from your hands into your lower abdomen. Sense your breathing. Don’t attempt to control it. Notice how your belly expands or wants to expand on the in-breath and retracts or want to retract on the out-breath. As the inhalation takes place by itself, sense the air going not just through your nose but also through the smile on your face (with your mouth closed). Let the sensation, the energy, of the smile combine with the energy of your breath, and use both your intention and your attention to direct this energy down into the area that hurts or that is tense and contracted. If you are anxious, fearful, or impatient, direct the smiling breath down into your heart and the area around your navel. Be sure not to hold your breath at the end of the inhalation.
As you exhale, do so slowly and silently through pursed but relaxed lips (as though you are gently blowing on a single candle, making it flicker without actually blowing it out), and feel that any pain, discomfort, tension, anxiety, fear, or impatience is released with the exhalation. Let your next in-breath arise on its own.
As you continue this practice, sense your face frequently to be sure you are still smiling. Also, keep sensing the warmth and energy coming from your hands into your navel area, letting the warmth and energy move all through your abdomen and into your spine. Each time the in-breath occurs, allow your abdomen to expand outward. On the out-breath, allow your abdomen to gently retract inward. This will help your diaphragm move through its full range of motion, which in turn will help open up all your breathing spaces.
Exhaling slowly through pursed lips ensures that the exhalation will take longer than the inhalation. This will help you relax. Don’t force your breathing in any way. The key is to keep smiling and be gentle. Practice like this for a minimum of five minutes at a time.
This is a very safe, powerful exercise that you can try any time of the day or night.
Copyright 2009-2016 by Dennis Lewis. You can find more complete versions of this smiling and breathing practice, and the science behind it, in my books The Tao of Natural Breathing and Free Your Breath, Free Your Life.