I don’t know about you but breathing wasn’t something I ever really thought about.
Like most people it just happened.
Doing a yoga course made me more aware of my breath.
Did you know that our emotions change the way we breathe. Research has shown that our breathing pattern can influence the emotion we experience.
Our ability to breathe is fascinating. Why? Because it is one of the only systems in our body that can be controlled voluntarily, through the central nervous system, and more often involuntarily, through the autonomic nervous system.
To better your life start paying more attention to the way you breathe.
While we don’t really tend to think about our breath unless we are doing yoga, meditation, exercise etc, proper breathing techniques and awareness of breath can have massive implications on our health.
Having knowledge of specific breathing techniques can lower stress, help you sleep, help your mind function more acutely, and even curb food cravings.
Here are a few interesting facts about breathing.
Breathing is the only self governing system of the body that we can also control. This means that the body governs it, but we can change how we breathe through conscious breathing practices such as pranayama (breathing techniques)
When we breathe we are either right nostril or left nostril dominate. (To find out what you are wet your finger, hold it under your nose and exhale). Yogis believe that when the right nostril is more open we are driven by our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight mode). This means we are more fired up and active. When the left nostril is more open which tends to happen when we are relaxed and at ease we are driven by our parasympathetic nervous system (Rest and digest mode). The dominance changes around every 20 minutes during the day - Alternate nostril breathing (pranayama) can help regulate the left and right sides thereby creating balance in our nervous system.
According to some studies breathing slowly and taking longer breaths can reduce your appetite. It has also shown to be effective with cravings and addictions.
Ancient yogis believed we only have so many breaths in our life. It’s considered normal to take somewhere between 12 to 25 breaths per minute, based on your level of fitness. The average person takes about 16 breaths per minute, 960 breaths per hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year. If you lived to the age of 75, that would mean 630,720,000 breaths in your lifetime - If we can why not stretch our life span out a little bit longer by taking as many slow, deep breaths as possible?
Our breath is an indictor of our mood and our mood is an indicator of our breath. What does this mean? It means that if we change how we breathe we can change our mood. It also means that when our mood changes so does our breath. When it comes to stress, mindful breathing practices are a great tool to lower blood pressure, increase our lung capacity for oxygen, and in the long term, prevent heart disease.
Our brains are always reacting to situations based on our fight-or-flight response, an inherent survival mechanism that protected us from fatal situations that occurred often in our more primitive days. In modern society, that response still exists and our brains tend to apply it to the daily stresses of life that aren’t so life-threatening. Unfortunately with that comes the stress response, spiking cortisol and other stress hormones, which when released can often, lead to chronic fatigue, depression, and disease.
There are some common breathing habits that we have that we may not even know about. They are the following:
Only breathing into the chest
Inhalations are stronger than exhalations
Reverse breathing (where the diaphragm rises instead of falls on the inhale)
We breathe in and out of our nose during a yoga practice for a few reasons. The main one is that when we breathe like this we can only take in so much air or expel so much air. If we have to resort to opening our mouth to get more air it is an indicator that we have stepped into stressing or pushing our bodies.
It’s becoming more and more clear that being mindful of our breath is incredibly beneficial to our overall health and wellbeing.
So if you haven’t already, try practicing some mindful breathing techniques and watch how quickly the various systems of your body begin to respond.
Here is some information on the most basic of yoga breaths. The Full Yoga Breath.
This is where most other techniques stem from.
To follow along head over to my vimeo channel and try it out for free (in bonus material).
To try out other techniques you can find some good videos on YouTube. With the more advanced pranayama make sure you have got a teacher who you trust and knows exactly what they are teaching.
There can be massive shifts in energy when using pranayama so its important to know what you are doing.
Any questions then please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peace and Love
Definition - The Full Yoga Breath also known as three-part breath, because it works with three different sections of the torso, the diaphragm, ribs and clavicle. It is a deeply balancing breathing exercise that can benefit everyone on a physical, mental and spiritual level.
Step by Step -
Sit or lie comfortably.
Close your eyes.
Interlace your fingers and cradle your navel/belly (diaphragm).
Breathe deeply into the navel so that your hands are moving out and in. This should be a smooth process and without force, if uneven keep working on the breath.
Do this 15-20 times (or more if practice is needed).
Now slide the hands upward so they are resting on the ribcage.
Continue breathing but now inhale into the navel and also into the ribs. Fill the belly first and then the ribs, visualise the breath filing the belly upward. Feel the ribs expand in all directions - forward, backward and sideways.
As you exhale, retrace your steps from the inhale. Exhale starting from the ribs finishing off with the belly. Don't force the breath.
Repeat this another 15-20 times (or more if needed).
Now separate the hands and place them on your chest, resting the palms above the heart centre with your fingertips gently resting on your clavicle/collarbones.
Continue breathing. Start into the belly, then the ribs and then the chest. Filling up your torso from bottom up, all the way to your collar bones where your fingertips are resting. Feel the breath rise along the spine, expanding in all directions. This is a great time to remind yourself to keep the spine as tall as possible.
Exhale the way the breath came in, from top to bottom.
Repeat this another 15-20 times (or more if needed).