Breath is life. Quite literally, we don’t survive without it for more than a few minutes, so it’s amazing that so many people are short changing themselves on one of the most precious resources we have.
Our breath is a complex function of exchange with the universe, inhaling oxygen created by trees and algae, and exhaling carbon dioxide which is then reprocessed by trees. Ironically, the construct of our lungs even has the same shapes and patterns as the branches of trees! As it happens, these inner branches are the most natural and effective way of distributing oxygen.
Our breath often mirroring our feelings and our moods. Imagine, how do you breathe when you cry? Or when you laugh? Or sing? Breath supports every cell in the body and can boost happiness and life! The automatic part of the brain dictates that we breath in and out some 960 breaths every hour, and up to 24 thousand breaths a day (!), but how many of those breaths are deep, cleansing and life enhancing?
When we shallow breath, we become a real hot pot for anxiety and panic attacks, because the body assumes we’re being suffocated and responds accordingly. We can feel dizzy, hot, faint, whilst our heart rate increases and eye dilate. We can experience nausea and generally drop out of consciousness and normal thought, blindly trying to regain sense of the world. This can be literally because we’re not giving the body oxygen it needs to help us to stay calm. This is a genuine problem for the increasing rates of people suffering from anxiety and stress with mental health conditions. Fortunately, with ever growing awareness of mindfulness, we can begin to learn to use the breathe properly and fully, as a way of coping with every day modern stresses.
If you have practised the art of yoga, you’ll know that the breath is regarded as important as the movement it’s self. Because the breath is seen as the bridge between the mind and body, and the essence of life force, there are many different techniques of breathing to bring about different sensations and energy. Learn more about the art of breathing in yoga in our blog ‘What is Pranayama and Why is it so Important?’
Quite simply, having an array of simple breath techniques, means you’ll have the tools to really cope with life at home or work as you please. So whether you want to calm down and meditate, cope with an extremely stressful situation, heighten your awareness, or even cool down on a hot day, there is a breath to do that.
Most of us are only using 1/6th of our lung capacity and we still live until we’re old, so imagine what might happen if you took your breath that bit more seriously?
Here Are 5 Key Reasons to Retrain Your Breath
1. Become able to meditate more effectively. Meditation really isn’t about sitting for hours chanting om. It’s the ability to be aware of the self and quieten the mind. We learn to observe when we’re allowing the mind to govern the self and our bodily responses. By using our breath as the anchor for the mind, we can develop concentration, which is just a step away from meditation. Guided meditations often begin with control of the breath as a method to calm down our thoughts.
2. We can deal with anxiety and stress. As mentioned above, when we become highly anxious, we tend to breathe more lightly into the upper portions of the lungs only. The brain instructs the body to act by activating the fight or flight response, which can deepen symptoms of panic such as tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. By controlling the breath, you can effectively take back control, regulating heart beat and regaining logical thought.
3. We sleep better. Why do you think it is that we always feel more hungry or tired after a day at the beach or after a country walk? With a fresh burst of oxygen the whole body is rejuvenated and uses and distributes clean energy. Equally when we hit the sack. calm deep breathing techniques hep us to switch gear and drop into the relaxation response. Our heart rate slows down, our breath becomes quiet and a wave of calm washes over us. Yoga Nidra is one style of yoga specifically designed to suspend the self between wake and sleep and uses breath as a key part of the process to letting go…
4 We can balance our nervous system. The breath is the one thing we have to influence our autonomic nervous system. The conscious control of bodily functions is known as the sympathetic nervous system, the unconscious control of functions are governed by the parasympathetic nervous system and the enteric nervous system controls the gastrointestinal tract functions.
5. Our respiratory system improves, with a bigger lung capacity which enables more effective exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Our circulatory system can carry oxygenated blood around the veins more efficiently, our digestive, urinary, lymphatic and excretory systems all function better when fed with healthy blood cells.
Yoga is a fabulous way of using breath to its fullest advantage. Why not book a class in with our delightful yoga teachers in our Guildford Studio and explore how you can change your life, just by changing the way you breathe?