Noticing and understanding how we are breathing is a huge step to living a more balanced and calmer life. Shelley Edwards, The Hub’s NLP practitioner and yoga teacher, outlines why and how to breathe right
We all take breathing for granted but have you ever contemplated the power of your breath – or wondered if you are actually breathing properly?
Breathing is the clearest signal of your body’s state at any time. Large sets of muscles are involved in inhaling (bringing in oxygen) and exhaling (flushing out carbon dioxide). When we breathe properly we empty the lungs fully and refill them. Breathing incorrectly and from the chest leaves about a third of stale air in our lungs.
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We get in control of our nervous system when we breathe full body breaths, stomach to throat on the inhale and throat to stomach on the exhale.
Thoracic (chest breathing) when we are stressed or when the diaphragm cannot move fully is called secondary breathing. Many people get stuck in this pattern, using up more energy and creating strain on the neck and shoulders.
Diaphragmatic breathing uses the primary breathing muscles (at the bottom of the ribs) as we fill up and empty our lungs. It all starts in the belly! So it’s known as belly breathing, with the belly rising as we inhale and flattening as we exhale. The diaphragm drops down as we inhale and our breath expands the chest, then the diaphragm rises back up as we exhale and the chest drops. This is energy efficient, oxygenating the body and causing the least stress on our muscular system.
Nasal inhalations calm down the brain’s frontal lobe, calming its activity, and warming the lungs and body for easy oxygen uptake. It also helps nitric oxide production, which is important for immune function and circulation.
What is your breath telling you?
Becoming aware of your breath gets you in control of you!
Simply feeling and listening to your breath is a way of learning what your body is expressing and finding out what it needs. This then helps us to relax and drop into a more easy and calm breath rhythm and have the chance to feel balanced.
Whether you are lying down or standing up just place your hands on your belly and feel it move out on the inhale and back in on the exhale.
Mindful breathing practices are key!
This is quite simply the one tool we can all use for reducing stress, improving health and operating at our best to increase our potential. To optimise our fitness and athletic training, to improve our emotional intelligence, to change habitual behaviour patterns and oh wait… to improve our brain function, cardiovascular and respiratory health.
Yoga and relaxation classes get you to tune into your breath as well as feel energised, relaxed, calm and in control. You learn how to breathe properly, you connect with your own breath rhythm – and it doesn’t matter if it takes you a little time to truly learn how to breathe properly as we all learn at different speeds. But you sure are guaranteed to tune into you and get in control of your nervous system.
You do not need to be a bendy gymnast to take a yoga mat and indeed you will certainly surprise yourself as you use your breath to guide you in and out of postures. You will work at your own pace, understanding your own flexibility, and there is never any judgement or competition as that quite simply would not be yoga!
Tomorrow: Shelley demonstrates healthy breathing techniques