Breathing. It is essential. It allows our cells to be replenished with oxygen, which provides our bodies with energy. Our breath is our anchor. Our life-force. It is necessary for survival. It’s something we can do automatically without even thinking about it. However, it is a voluntary and involuntary process and effects our mood, our sleep, heart, nervous system, and brain, to name a few.
How are you breathing right now? Is your breath shallow? Deep? Fast or slow? Take a moment and notice your breathing, without placing any judgement on your breath.
Our physical and emotional state affect how we breathe. I’m sure you’ve noticed that when you exert yourself physically your heart pumps quickly and it can be hard to catch your breath. I bet after you sprint you are aware of how fast you breathe. But, are you aware of your breath as it relates to your emotions? What is your breath like when you’re feeling stressed? How often do you pause and pay attention to the quality of your breath when you’re upset about something?
Depending on the circumstances, and our subsequent feelings, and the frequency of which we feel a particular way, our breathing can fall into a habitual pattern. Not surprisingly, we don't often breathe fully or smoothly.
Our breathing tends to be either:
thoracic or diaphragmatic
interrupted or continuous
irregular or rhythmic
Thankfully we can re-pattern our breathing habits.
Just as how we feel effects how we breathe, how we breathe effects how we feel. This means there is a lot of room for improvement.
For example, when we are experiencing stress, a typical response is to breathe shallowly, hold our breath, or over-breathe. None of these breathing types helps us to manage our stress or anxiety, aid our brains, lower our heart rate or blood pressure, or helps our immune system. Fascinatingly, a study completed at John Hopkins found that anxiety cannot live in a highly oxygenated environment. This means that breathing well is crucial to greater well-being.
Learning to intentionally take a deep abdominal breath is essential. Slowing down your breath and practicing diaphragmatic breathing promotes feelings of calmness, relaxation, and healing by oxygenating the brain and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. Focusing on your breath provides an opportunity to stop your thoughts and instead be more fully present in the moment, connecting your mind and body.
Intentionally breathing can be done anywhere and anytime, and it’s completely free and within your control. Why not seize this moment and begin to take better care of, and be more in control of, your breathing?
Tips to Breathing Well…
Sit up straight with good posture.
Breathe slowly through your nose (you’ve got a filtration system in there)
Breathe down into your diaphragm (belly breathing opens up your torso releasing pressure on organs, helps massage organs, balances organs, and it helps expel toxins and waste)
Breathe relaxed, quietly, and rhythmically (slow, calm and steady)
Sitting tall and comfortably, relax your arms, shoulders and head
Take a breath in through your nose to the count of four
Pause for one count
Gently exhale to the count of four
Pause for one count
Repeat cycle slowly and smoothly [adjust numbers accordingly for what’s most comfortable for you] for as long as you’d like.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of breathing more rhythmically and continuously into and out of your diaphragm, see if you can you take only 10 breaths in one minute… Then take time to notice how you feel physically and emotionally…