To be able to let go, to calm and find peace, soften and surrender into this present moment.
When was the last time you taken time to notice your breathing?
There is so much to breathing beyond the amazing fact that it is what keeps us alive. It is instinctive and most of the time we are hardly aware we are doing it.
The way we breath, whether shallow/deep, fast/slow, quiet/loud, through our mouth or nose, all have an impact on our general wellbeing, on our physical body, mental and emotional health.
Quick very basic anatomy:
The main breathing muscle is our diaphragm which is a flat large muscle that separates our abdomen and our lungs. When we breath in it expands downwards towards our abdomen and on exhalation it rises upwards like a parachute, pushing the air out.
When we shallow breath, we don’t use this muscle to its full capacity, so our breath shortens and becomes faster. This means our lungs are not working to full capacity, gas exchange is poor which then leads to not enough oxygen reaching the cells in our body.
There is a saying that our mouth it the place where food and drink enters, and our nose is there for breathing in air
Our nostrils are perfectly designed to allow just the right amount of air (not too much at once) with a nice filter system created by fine hairs and mucus(bogies). They can prevent bacteria, viruses and other nasties from entering our body. Unlike our mouth which usually associated with shallow breathing as it allows way too much air in one go and everything else too!
Fast shallow breathing sends messages to our brain via our nervous system that we are in danger which brings our body under stress, which many times we are not even aware of.When we slow and deepen our breath we calm our nervous system, our heart rate slows bringing balance to our emotions, making us feel good.
There are many breathing techniques that have been developed over thousands of years, also used in ancient yoga practices which some in recent times have been explored in western science proven to be beneficial to our physical and mental health.
Here is a simple practice you can do right now that will take 2-5 minutes:
- Lie down on your back or sit on a chair with your back straight. (You can do this even in bed)
- Place your hands gently on your belly.
- Bring your full attention to your breath and simply observe it without judgement; where can you feel it most? Chest or abdomen? Is it heavy, slow, fast, steady, warm, cold, mouth or nose breathing?
- Now imagine your stomach is a balloon and gently inhale through the nose (if it is blocked you can make a small gap with your lips to allow a smaller flow of air in.) As you breath in you can use your imagination sensing the diaphragm pushing the abdomen organs downwards causing it to expand outwards and the chest to rise, pressing towards your hands.
- Hold the breath for a split second then notice the natural urge to release the air out and gently let the air flow out, sensing your stomach flattening as the diaphragm pushes the air out of your lungs. At the end of the out breath, hold for a count of 2 and notice the air flowing back towards your hands that are on your abdomen.
- Once you sense the rise and fall of the abdomen you know you are beginning to use the diaphragm and can start deepening the breath by inhaling and exhaling slower and quieter each time, making the breath longer and even.
- After about 2 minutes you can go back to natural breathing. Notice how you are breathing now? How are you feeling within yourself?
* You might find slow deep breaths using the diaphragm tricky to start with. Build it up slowly. Eventually it will come with ease where you will be able to start applying other techniques to reduce stress and anxiety, increase concentration bringing more focus and clarity, making you feel more energetic and alert. This will also contribute to your general physical health and impacting on your largest organ the skin.
This book I have been reading “The healing Power of the Breath” by Richard P. Brown and Patricia L. Gerbarg, has different simple techniques that help enhance our concentration and support different mental and emotional conditions here is a link
**If you are interested in finding out more information about the benefits of breathing and more you might want to listen to this interesting interview with the author and journalist James Nestor on this podcast below called “You will never breath the same again”. You can also find more interesting talks with James Nestor on You Tube.
**Another breathing technique that I practised with my daughter when she suffered with Asthma that really made a difference for her was the Buteyko Technique, taught by Patrick McKeown. If you are suffering with Asthma and other conditions, please look into this technique, it is an eye opener. It is fascinating and might change your life!