Breathing is an unconscious process; something we do all day, every day! Aside from keeping us alive, pumping oxygen to every cell in our body and eliminating carbon dioxide, breathing has so many health benefits which many of us are unaware of.
The way we breathe has a direct effect on our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. It’s all interconnected. Understanding and using the breath purposefully is a major skill and something which can be so powerful in helping you overcome many challenges in your life.
When was the last time you connected mindfully with your breath? Sat for a moment to notice its rhythm, its depth, its pace. Are you aware of how you breathe?
There is an abundance of evidence showcasing the benefits of breathing; some of which I have included below (Harvard Medical School):
· Reduces stress
· Improves sleep
· Reduces anxiety
· Improves creativity
· Increases levels of energy
· Improves blood flow
· Eliminates toxins in the body
· Improves cardiovascular health
· Assists in improving digestion
We can use our breath for relaxation purposes, to help calm our minds and body. Breathing this way can reduce our elevated heart rate and make us feel more connected and balanced. When we breath this way, we focus on slow breaths, adopting a deep belly breathing technique. Breathing this way calms us down, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which sends a signal to the part of your brain experiencing anxiety that you are safe and there is no need to activate the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ stress response.
In contrast, we can also use our breath purposefully as a ‘pick me up’ if your energy levels are low. Breathing this way can also improve our focus and concentration, which often reduces when we are feeling fatigued or drained. We can adopt a breathing technique which consists of short and rapid inhalations and exhalations. This increases our heart rate, sending stored energy to the part of the body which requires it. Breathing this way can prepare our body for a stressful or critical situation- the “fight or flight” stress response, activating the sympathetic nervous system. At this time, the body shifts its energy resources and can slow down the body processes which are (in that moment) less important, such as digestion. Adrenalin and cortisol are released during this process.
See below some examples of both types of breathing techniques.
BREATHING FOR RELAXATION – Take 5 Breathing
BREATHING FOR ENERGY AND FOCUS Energiser Bunny Breathing
1. Re-energise series: 3 quick inhales through the nose, followed by 1 short exhale through the mouth (repeat for 30 seconds).
2. Relax series: coherence breathing, consisting of 5-6 seconds of a deep inhalation through the nose, followed by a 5-6 second exhalation through the nose. Focus on sending the breathing to your stomach (repeat for a few minutes).
Here is a link to a video with a demonstration of this type of breathing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbEiMAzV0Ks. This is thanks to Richard Bostock, known as the Breath Guy. He has an amazing amount of information about breathwork, if you are interested, have a look at his website: https://www.thebreathguy.com/ or search him on YouTube for more breathwork demonstrations.
Here are some fantastic applications I would recommend if you would like to practice different breathing exercises, to help reduce stress or anxiety, improve sleep and increase energy or focus:
- MyLife Meditation
- Prana Breath
Happy breathing, everyone!
Yours in wellness,