We breathe every single second of the day – it’s an automatic function. We probably don’t even notice that we are doing it or how we are doing it and yet here we have one of the most important natural wellbeing tools right at our fingertips. A tool that will help to relieve all sorts of issues such as stress and anxiety, high blood pressure and it is even a digestive aid (whoever would have thought that!!).
Breathing is all about bringing new oxygen into your body and expelling the stale, used oxygen. This new oxygen cleanses and revitalises the body. When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and the lower belly rises. When you breathe out, the belly falls. Deep breathing is also known as belly breathing, abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing. These are just different terms for the same thing.
Here are just a few of the many advantages to deep breathing:
Decreases stress: when we feel stressed or anxious, the brain releases cortisol (the stress hormone). Our heart rate increases, and our breath becomes shallow. Deep breathing enables the heart rate to slow down, more oxygen comes into the blood stream and the brain starts to relax thus relieving anxiety. Slowing the heart rate also dilates the blood vessels thus lowering blood pressure.
Increases energy: The cleaner oxygen we have in our bodies the better our bodies will function. Our stamina will also improve.
Improves digestion: Slow and deep breathing can relax muscles in the intestinal tract to promote absorption and digestion, so you have far less chance of indigestion.
How often do you notice that you are holding your breath? I bet it’s more often than you think. We can hold our breath when we read an email, a text or on our phones.
"Email apnea is a phenomenon where people unconsciously hold their breath or drop into shallow breathing when they're responding to email or texting," says Niraj Naik, a world-leading breathwork expert and founder of the international school of breathwork SOMA Breath. (*)
So, when did you last take a nice deep breath? Here are 3 different breathing techniques for you to practice absolutely anywhere - in a queue, on the bus, in the office, just before a meeting – anywhere. Just a couple of tips. When you try these techniques, don’t force your breathing. Go slowly and gently. Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest to check that they are rising and falling.
Breathe in calmly through your nose filling your abdomen and chest for 5 seconds. Hold your breath for 3 seconds and then slowly release the breath through your mouth for 5 seconds. Breath out through slightly parted or ‘0’ shaped lips. Repeat 5 or 6 times.
Four Square Breathing:
I find this one great when I can’t get to sleep but you can do it anytime. Slowly and gently breath in for a count of 4 making sure that your abdomen and chest are rising. Count at a nice, steady pace. Hold the breath for 4 counts then let your breath out of your mouth for a count of 4. When you have let your breath out, hold again for a count of 4. Repeat 5 or 6 times. You will find everything slowing down!
Cooling Breathing: This is a super technique when it is too hot, and you need to cool down. Curl the sides of your tongue to make the shape of a straw. (I’ll bet you used to do this as a child!) Breathe in through your tongue. You will feel the coolness of the air on your tongue and in the back of your throat. At the top of your inhale, slip your tongue back into your mouth and seal your lips, hold your breath for a moment. Exhale fully through your nose. If you find it too difficult to curl your tongue, then just open your mouth a little instead.