Pause for breath: how to breathe properly
Improve overall health, tackle stress levels and eliminate toxins through conscious mindful breathing
Human survival depends on nutrients and oxygen. Whilst a vast and successful food and diet industry has focused on how we eat, the benefits of mindful breathing have been grossly neglected in recent years.
Our Health and Wellness Coach investigates the role that breathing plays in our overall health, and how we can all tackle our stress levels by making ‘Mindful Breathing’ an integral part of our daily routine.
What is mindful breathing?
Mindful breathing is rhythmic, continuous (slow) breathing from right down in the diaphragm. Originating from the Buddhist form of meditation, Western mindfulness classes now focus on breathing as a means to calm the mind and body. Importantly, breath awareness meditation enables you to concentrate on the present moment and enjoy what is happening in your life here and now. Since the mind and body are irrevocably intertwined this form of ‘conscious breathing’ will lead to greater spiritual fulfillment, lighten your mental state and improved physical well-being, too.
What are the benefits of mindful breathing?
The fast pace of modern life can cause a lot of people to breathe badly; this means taking shallow breaths, holding your breath for short bursts, needing to take an unusually big breath or yawning. Breathing badly can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress.
Mindful, conscious breathing can alleviate this and change our state of being; it can also improve overall health and concentration, eliminate toxins, enhance sleep quality, help to correct posture, improve athletic performance and help digestive disorders such as IBS.
Try this very simple breathing exercise at work, at home or before you go to bed:
-Sit comfortably with shoulders square, back upright and eyes closed
-Inhale deeply, taking breath right to the base of the lungs (diaphragmatic breath)
-Count from 1 to 5 whilst inhaling
-Then, without pausing, exhale steadily through your nose to the count of 5
-Repeat for 3 minutes
How do we learn to breathe properly in London?
Much is on offer in London in the way of breathing advice. Below are our top tips:
Yoga: mind/body synergy has always been a guiding principle of yoga. Pranayama is the name given to ‘the healing breath’ used to navigate different levels of consciousness. You may be sceptical about the bodily contortions involved in yoga, but don’t underestimate the importance of the class’s extensive use of rhythmic breathing and the dedicated ‘shevasana’ relaxation at the end of the practice. Squeeze in an indulgent yoga retreat to experience intensive breathing practice and total serenity this side of Christmas and beyond….
Transformational breathing workshops: it is now possible to spend whole days at workshops dedicated to improving your breathing techniques and lightning your mental state. Breathing Tree is one of many companies offering ‘Transformational Breath’ workshops – where you learn to enjoy the moment thanks to a deep focus on inhalation and breath – in locations across London.
Online courses: for those without the time or inclination to travel to classes, look no further than your laptop. ‘The Art of Breathing’ offers comprehensive online tuition. We prefer, however, the reassurance of face to face guidance in this important discipline.
Apps: plenty of apps exist to guide you through the principles of healthy breathing.
-‘Headspace’ is a well-known app which we recommend for its comprehensive advice on how to tackle anxiety and related conditions.
-‘Breathe’ is a mindfulness app which sends reminders throughout the day to do your breathing exercises – but the constant nagging from your phone may be enough to make your breathing rate go into overtime!
-‘BreathingApp’ is the personal breathing trainer on your iPhone!
Good Mindful Breathing exercises for you to try at home or at work
The Buteyko Breathing Centre is a well-established and professional international clinic, offering breathing re-training courses for effective good health and management of disease. Try this simple Buteyko breathing exercise at home to get you started:
-Assume a comfortable position; standing, sitting or lying down.
-Inhale through your nose, taking the air as deep into your lungs as is comfortable.
-Count steadily from 1-4 whilst breathing in.
-Pause for 2 counts.
-Exhale through your nose steadily for 4 counts.
-Pause for 2 counts.
-Continue for 2 minutes.
-Then repeat the above exercise inhaling for 6 counts, pausing for 3, exhaling for 6, pausing for 3, and continue upwards inhaling for 8, pausing for 4….
Find what works for you and allow yourself time to practise little and often. Kickstart your day with a short breathing meditation, break the mid-afternoon energy slump with a breathing exercise at work, or ease into the twilight zone with a candle-lit relaxation session before heading to bed for carefree, restful sleep. Rub some peppermint oil into your hands and inhale deeply for ultimate bedtime zen!
Like everything else in life don’t expect to be an overnight breathing expert – it’s just about finding new ways to relax.