Take a breath. For something that is so important to our health, we often pay our breathing little attention. It has become an act that we do unconsciously for every minute of every day. So much so, that we are often guilty of mindless breathing.
Our entire bodies run on oxygen and breathing properly means breathing in a way that allows the maximum (or optimal) amount of that element to get into your body. First, make sure that you breathe through your nose. It is your first gateway that filters the air before it gets to your lungs. Second, breathe deeply, engaging your diaphragm. This way the lower parts of your lungs expand fully to allow for more air and also massage other organs in your abdomen. Third, make sure that you breathe in slowly, silently and rhythmically – your body will adopt a natural rhythm that will make you relax and reduce the stress accumulated by your body.
Get breathing right, and it can help with a myriad of factors in our health and wellbeing. Breathe mindfully, and you can regain a sense of calm, decrease anxiety, improve sleep and be more efficient when exercising – both physically and mentally.
Here are 7 aspects of your life where breathing can make a real difference.
For 10-15 seconds focus on short, sharp breaths in and exhale making a ‘ha’ sound. Conclude it with one long deep breath. This type of shallow breathing welcomes the maximum amount of air into your lungs as quickly as possible, and should only be done for a short time. Now, you are ready for action, your mind is straight and prepared to meet any physical or mental challenge you might encounter.
Breathing can support in moderating pain. Not only can deep mindful breaths focus our conscious mind on something other than the discomfort we feel, but oxygenating the lungs leads to the production of endorphins, or the happy hormone, which makes you feel better. That’s one of the reasons why mums-to-be are taught deep, slow breathing in preparation for giving birth.
Successful Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation are about slowing down and taking notice of the world around you. Focus on slow, natural breaths as a starting point (about 5 breaths per minute – you could try 4-7-8 breathing) and become aware as you inhale and exhale. This will bring about a sense of calm and relaxation. From this point, you will be well prepared to start your mindfulness practice.
Controlled, mindful breathing makes you more relaxed and aware of your senses, and with that, any sensations that you pay attention to. Try breathing deeply and consciously while eating ice cream, or walking in the countryside, or making love – and just notice the difference.
Correct breathing is vital for safe and efficient physical exercises. The way you breathe will depend on the training you do and its intensity, but generally, breathing through your mouth allows more air to reach your lungs, brings more oxygen to the organs and muscles, and encourages more Co2 to leave your body. Altogether, this gives you the power to exercise harder and get the outcomes you’re looking for. If in doubt, read up on it or ask a professional PT for advice.
When we feel stressed, we can find ourselves breathing quicker, using short, shallow breaths. This actually increases the sense of panic you might feel. Try it: take a few deep, slow breaths and feel how you are melting down and grounding in relief. And now, switch to shallow quick breaths. See how you immediately get that sense of panic that collects at the top of your body?
Its’ time to start teaching your body to breathe deeply and with awareness.