Having practiced many types of Yoga since the early 90’s, I have come to know firsthand how important being conscious of my breath has become. Changing the way I breathe has positively affected how I feel, my sleep, alertness, and overall wellness. I feel calm and more focused throughout the day. This week I want to share information with you to get you going on this journey.
The medical community has now become aware of how important proper breathing is, and will recommend breathing techniques and meditation to their patients. I love it! That’s often when people seek me out. I can help you with this.
This is what one expert recently had to say about breathing:
“Rapid, shallow breathing sends a message to our adrenal glands that we’re in fight-or-flight mode, and they begin pumping out stress hormones like cortisol,” explains Brenda Stockdale, director of mind-body medicine at the RC Cancer Centers in Atlanta. “And when the body is stressed, it’s weakened. Our immune cells normally function like ‘little Pac-Men,’” Stockdale explains, “patrolling for and destroying bacteria and diseased cells before they can multiply. But when cortisol levels are elevated, those immune cells slow down drastically, allowing pathogens and diseased cells to slip by.”
As you are reading this, let’s do a little experiment. Place one hand on your upper chest and one on your lower belly. Close your eyes and focus on your breath and the way in which you are breathing. Where is your body moving or rising? Are you breathing quickly or slowly? Shallow or deep? I want you to see where and how you are breathing. Do you find yourself holding your breath from time to time?
To change the way we breathe, we need to understand what we are doing first.
Ideally we want to bring the breath deeply into the body using the full lung capacity we were born with. We do this with abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing (in Kundalini Yoga we call this long deep breathing). We breathe in deeply and the lower abdomen rises. As we gently exhale the belly lowers. In most cases we breath in and out through the nose. The nose traps the airborne pollutants that come our way, so if we mouth breathe we are taking them all in.
The diaphragmatic breath helps us become aware of the way we are breathing and how it affects the way we feel physically, mentally and emotionally. You ideally feel relaxed and calm after doing this. Try it a few times during the day and notice how differently you feel. It works, I promise!
Here are some of the advantages of breathing correctly:
- It helps us relax and calms down the nervous system.
- It helps us sleep more soundly, have clarity in our thinking, and washes away anxiety and stress.
- It oxygenates the body, which leads to greater ease in doing any kind of athletic activity.
- It helps to naturally eliminate toxins from the body, which increases our strength and vitality.
Breathing Exercise to Relax:
To help relax your mind and body as you settle in for a restful sleep or at anytime throughout the day, try this: breathe in through the nose, allowing your belly to expand to the count of 3, hold for the count of 3, then breathe out a long slow exhale. As you exhale through the nose, slightly contract your belly – gently pulling the belly button back toward the spine. This type of exhalation pushes old stale carbon dioxide out from the lungs (which can make the body restless.) If you still feel tense or unsettled, try an audible exhale through the mouth instead.
Do this 5x for sure, or until you sense things are settling down for you.
Breathing Exercise for Insomnia:
Take nice big belly breaths for this one, inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Breathe in as your belly rises (not your upper chest) – place one hand on your lower abdomen to make sure you are bringing the breath into the correct area. Exhale slowly as your belly lowers.
Technique: lying in bed on your left side, enjoy 8 deep breaths; then move to lying on your right side, and take 16 deep breaths. Now move to lying on your back and enjoy 32 relaxing breaths.
Breath of Joy:
This is a breath we do in Yoga before a class to energize the body and infuse it with oxygen. As with all breathing techniques, it helps to detoxify the body. (Caution: not to be done by those with high blood pressure, head injuries, glaucoma, migraine headaches and done more slowly by those who have low blood pressure.)
It can be done either standing or kneeling. If standing, begin with a wide base: i.e your feet wider than your hips. Each movement of the arms corresponds to the breath. We take in three inhales and one exhale. Begin by swinging your arms up in front of you, parallel with the floor as you inhale. Swing your arms out beside you, parallel with the floor as you inhale again. Next inhale, arms come up in front and up overhead. On the exhalation; bend the body at the hips with the knees slightly bent, arms swing down toward the floor as you say “haaaaaa” during the exhale. You can begin with 5 rounds, possibly working your way up to 20.
Breath of Joy one of my favourites! It always make me smile; feel happy and joyful!!
There are numerous breathing techniques I would love to share with you and am happy to assist you in any way that I can. I highly recommend that you print out this article and this way you can refer to it again and again.
“Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy.
Then a full hour is needed.”
– Saint Francis de Sales
I wish you an abundant winter season filled with much love, passion and adventure. As always I am here to support you in this life journey – and welcome your feedback.