In a recent blog we spoke about quick changes that can be made to improve your health and wellbeing. One of the most obvious, but often forgotten, was to Breathe!
Breathing is a natural thing: breathe in, breathe out…not much to it, right? On average you breathe between 12 and 20 times a minute, and 17,000 to 30,000 times a day or more, so you would think you were doing it right, right?
Well, guess what: there actually is a wrong and right way to get oxygen into your system. And the fact that most people don’t even think twice about their breathing could mean that you’re missing out on something that could have a big impact on many different aspects of your body’s health and wellbeing.
So let’s think about it a bit…. And breathe better!
- Use Your Nose
There are two ways to breathe, through your mouth and your nose, but the nostrils filter, warm and humidify air in a way that the mouth cannot.
- And Your Belly…
Humans are “belly breathers,” and just above your stomach is a major muscle in the respiration process, the diaphragm. Proper breathing starts in the nose and then moves to the stomach as your diaphragm contracts, the belly expands and your lungs fill with air.
TRY IT NOW:
Simply lie down on the floor and place a hand on your belly. Breathe deeply. If you feel your hand rise and fall slightly with your breathing, congrats, you’re belly breathing! If your chest is moving instead of your stomach, you’re not breathing deeply enough, and need to adjust.
- Practice Proper Breathing
Proper breathing does not come naturally! Set aside times in the day to practice correct and deep breathing until it does! You can also use specific breathing techniques to address specific issues….
-Breathing for Muscle Tension Relief
Try this breathing technique first thing in the morning, it can help minimize muscle tension throughout the entire day.
*Stand up straight and bend forward at the waist. Bend knees slightly, letting your arms hang limply, close to the floor.
Inhale slowly and deeply, (through the nose and into the belly, remember?) and return to a standing position by slowly rolling your body up, lifting your head last.
Exhale slowly as you return to your original position.
Stretch your muscles a little, and repeat.
-Breathing for Increased Energy
Instead of reaching for that extra cup of coffee, try this for a quick and more sustained boost of energy… The Stimulating Breath Technique is used often in yoga, and stimulates the diaphragm. It’s also known as the “Bellows Breath,” and signals the body to become more alert.
*Sit up tall, and relax your shoulders. Keep your mouth closed and inhale rapidly through your nose with quick, short breaths (exhale quickly as well). Try doing that for about 10 seconds. Take a 15-30 second break and breathe normally. .
Repeat several times.
-Breathing for Relaxation
Breathing really can help relieve stress. Abdominal breathing (or belly breathing, as we mentioned before) increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the nervous system, causing a state of calmness. Practicing focused breathing 20 to 30 minutes each day can work wonders in reducing stress and anxiety. And we’re not talking about taking a nap, the point of focused breathing is to feel connected to your body, and be present and aware of the feeling of your worries drifting farther and farther away. The AIS (American Institute of Stress) endorses several breathing techniques, including one called the Quieting Response, a quick, six-second exercise that utilizes visualization and deep breathing to stop stress in its tracks.
*Here’s how to do it:
Smile inwardly with your eyes and mouth and release the tension in your shoulders. This is a powerful muscle release in the places where most people hold their muscles tense.
Imagine holes in the soles of your feet. As you take a deep breath in, visualize hot air flowing through these holes moving slowly up your legs, through your abdomen and filling your lungs.
Relax your muscles sequentially as the hot air moves through them up your body. When you exhale reverse the visualization so you “see” hot air coming out the same holes in your feet. Repeat throughout the day whenever you need to feel calm and relaxed.
Deep, mindful breathing can make a real difference to your health and wellbeing. While these techniques might have different effects on different people, you can never go wrong when you take a moment to calm the mind, and take a breath.
Right now… Let’s do it… In thorough the nose, into the belly… BREATHE