Breathing is simple, right? Inhale, exhale. Wrong. Proper breathing is much more than inhaling and exhaling. I am by no means a breathing expert, a doctor, or even someone who is qualified to teach proper breathing, but I do know what works for me. I’m still learning and constantly try to be aware of my breath during daily activities and during yoga practice.
First, I determined if I was breathing properly. When I took a deep breath, my chest puffed out, my shoulders lifted, and I sucked in my stomach. This is not proper breathing. Only the top portion of my lungs were being used. Having trouble figuring it out? Lay on the floor. You will notice your breath. Place your hands on your stomach just above your belly button. Does your hand move? or does your chest move?
- Lay on the floor(don’t like laying on the floor, sit comfortable in a cross-legged position with a straight back).
- Take a deep breath through your nose expanding your diaphragm – your chest does not move. Your stomach expands and the hand that is resting on your stomach rises up. The breath should start in the stomach and slowly work its way up to the ribcage and the chest.
- Exhale stomach first followed by the ribcage and the chest. Your hand sinks into my stomach.
- Repeat! Each breath should be fluid and there shouldn’t be a pause between each breath.
- Husband tip: exaggerate your breathing when practicing!
With practice this is slowly becoming my natural way to breathe. I have found that when I get stressed, anxious, sad, overly excited, or tired, my breathing returns to the shallow breathing. Paying attention to my breathing has allowed me to refocus my energy and to breathe my way through a lot of uncomfortable emotions. I’m always learning, and I know I have a lot to learn. Any tips, advice, comments….please share!
The list of benefits of deep breathing is endless. Yoga Journal published a great article about the importance of breathing. You can read it here.
Here are a few that I was surprised to discover:
- Improvement in the quality of blood due to increased levels of oxygen. This aids in the elimination of toxins from our body.
- Increase in the digestion and assimilation of food. More oxygen in the stomach means the stomach can operate more effectively.
- Improvement in the health of the nervous system including the brain, spinal cord, nerve center and nerves.
- The movement of the diaphragm during deep breathing massages the abdominal organs and the heart. This stimulates blood circulation to the organs
- Lungs become strong and healthy. This can ward of respiratory problems.
- Deep, slow breathing reduces the work load for our hearth. This results in a strong more efficient heart that operates better and lasts longer. This also reduces blood pressure and heart disease.
- Deep, slow breathing can also aid in weight loss. Extra oxygen in your system can burn excess fat more efficiently and feeds starving tissues and glands.
- Relaxation of the mind. Deep, slow breathing reduces your heart rate and causes your muscles to relax. This can also reduce anxiety levels.