Breathing is something the body does automatically. But the WAY we breathe changes depending on our state of mind and how we feel. Our breathing pattern changes with our emotions or in certain situations, like when we are stressed or fearful we tend to take fast and shallow breaths, whereas when we are relaxed, safe and at ease we breathe gently and more steadily.
If we hold our breath or change the rate at which we breathe in and out, we can change how we feel. The way we breathe can be actively controlled by simply focussing on the breath and how we are breathing. For example, when we breathe gently, we send a signal to the body that says I am relaxed and that all is safe and well. In response the body produces less stress hormones and increases feel-good hormones (endorphins). This is why breathing can be such a powerful tool in becoming a more calm, focused and positive person.
The most vital benefit of breathing is life! Without oxygen wed be dead but it can do so many other wonders for the body.
We breathe on average 1700 to 2100 times a day. That is a lot of in and out; air passing through our nose and lungs and into our circulation and a lot of breathing muscles and chest walls expanding and contracting, rising and falling it's also a lot of opportunities to take real control of how were feeling. Studies that have shown that the way we breathe affects our nervous system, hormone production, fight-flight response, stress levels, longetivity, heartbeat and rate, blood pressure, anxiety and depression, sleep and gut health/digestion. Keeping us alive is just the beginning!
We can use our breath to react better in situations, to remain calm and focused, to become energised and better connected, and overall feel more in control of our lives.
You can start deep breathing anywhere anytime but when practising sit somewhere quietly and comfortably where you won't be disturbed, sit up tall and keep your spine straight.
The diaphragm is the muscle separating the abdomen and chest cavity. Attached to the base of the lungs, the diaphragm is rarely activated when breathing unconsciously. This translates into a shallow breathing pattern leading to poor ventilation and decreased respiratory efficiency- something to think about before you begin because when breathing deeply, you engage this muscle by allowing your belly to rise and drop freely, facilitating a greater airflow and breathing efficiency.
Breathe deeply into your abdomen, not just your chest. Proper breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmic and done through the nose, not the mouth. Each breath should ideally last three to four seconds breathing in and three to four seconds breathing out. Deep full breaths that fill your lungs use your diaphragm.
Breathe in slowly and imagine your lungs filling up with air, when your lungs are full exhale slowly and repeat.