The average adult breathes (in and out) 15 to 20 times a minute… and quite without putting attention into it (unless they have a respiratory condition) because it is part of our autonomic nervous system. If we put a little bit of awareness into breathing, it becomes an incredible tool for our health.
When we breathe we take in oxygen and expel carbone dioxide as seen in the picture.
At the cellular level though for an optimal exchange of gases and a better regeneration we need to increase our breathing capacity and this can only happen with conscious and active work. Also ‘working’ on our breathing will help us get out of the ‘fight and flight’ mode, the one we tend to be in a lot in our active competitive day to day life. To get into relaxed mode (or into our parasympathetic mode) and activate our vagus nerve (the longest one that runs through all the major organs) we can practise various breathing techniques, from simple to more specific and skilled ones.
We do not need to change our breathing habits, but if we practise conscious deep breathing a few minutes a day (slowing down our breath rate and increasing our capacity) we can improve our health tremendously
Some of the benefits of deep breathing :
- release tension (stress contracts, deep breathing relaxes, gives space)
- releases toxins (carbon dioxide) and improves blood quality (better exchange)
- massages your organs (when done properly)
- improves posture (feels easier and better if the posture is freer)
- improve lungs (more power and capacity, less respiratory conditions) heart (less work, better pressure) nervous system
- improves muscle tone and function
- improve skin conditions (the skin breathes in and out and releases toxins)
- relieves pain (breathing into the area with pain will often ease it)
- assists weight control (if overweight excess oxygen burns fat better, if underweight oxygen feeds starved tissues)
- brings you back into the present moment (where worry related to past and future has no use)
- elevates mood (increases production of pleasure inducing neurochemicals)
.Breathing workshops are popular these days and there are a lot of techniques available in yoga, chigong, pilates…and they are all good but the key is simplicity.
What is a good way to breathe ? go back to the breathing we practised instinctively when we were born : When we breathe in our tummy expands and fills with air, when we breathe out it contracts. When we breathe in our diaphragm expands and pushes down towards our internal organs, giving them a nice massage whilst our tummy expands as well to welcome new air. When we breathe out the diaphragm relaxes back to its original relaxed place in the rib cage and our tummy contracts as well to expel unwanted air
Three simple breathing exercises : for each exercise you can sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground, your back straight and your shoulders relaxed or lay down on a bed or on a yoga mat. pay attention to the air coming into your nose and leaving through your nose or your mouth
1) the simplest one is equal in-out breaths : breathe in on the count of 4 and breathe out on the count of 4. If you do this one a few minutes a day regularly you will master a simple way to slow your breath and ground yourself that will be available anytime you need it (recommended by the NHS for stress relief)
2) square breathing : breathe in on a count of 4, hold on a count of 4, breathe out on a count of 4, hold on a count of 4, breathe out on a count of 4. repeat for 5 minutes
3) breathing to calm and let go : breathe in on a count of 4, hold on a count of 4, breathe out on a count of 6, hold on a count of 2. repeat for 5 minutes
There are a lot of other techniques for advance students who already master those simple but important breathing techniques. Remember that you want to do deep breathing a few minutes a day ideally every day to switch from fight or flight to repairing mode, from stress to relax, and if you already take the time to sit with yourself and slow down your breathing, this is the beginning of a new voyage into being present to yourself and it is called Mindfulness…
NB it is better to practise the 3 exercises in that order and not go straight to 3) without 1) and 2)
At Sound Shiatsu we would like to hear about your experience with breathing exercise, please share below