Breathing - this most simple and vital skill that we all do is more often than not taken for granted. Very rarely do the majority of us take the time to merely notice and follow our breathing process.
Spiritually, our breath is our life force, our essence. Without breathing our physical body would not survive. One of the simplest exercises to do to get in touch with your spirit and be present is to notice your breathing. Not judging, just focusing on and paying close attention to the sensation of breathing. As you breath in you feel the cool air on your nostrils flowing all the way into your lungs and abdomen, while your stomach inflates. Breathing out your stomach deflates, any stale air gets pushed out of your lungs, as you feel warm air leaving back through your nose.
Physically, breathing has 2 main purposes: to provide the body with oxygen and to remove the excess carbon dioxide. Our body needs oxygen to survive, our tissue cells use oxygen for energy reactions. Many people have a shallow breathing style - only breathing primarily into their chest. Breathing like this leads to low oxygen levels in the body which can lead to low energy and increased tension. When we breath shallowly we are only using 10% of our entire lung capacity! The human body is designed to breath into the diaphragm and as a result your belly should rise and fall with your breath.
Diaphragm breathing is also known as Hara Breathing and has many benefits including:
consuming less energy than shallow/chest breathing
increasing amount of oxygen in the body
reduces cravings and speeds up metabolism
boosts the immune system
prevents toxic build up
tones the abdominal area
improves concentration and memory
increases strength of respiratory system
invokes calmness over the mind and emotions
EXERCISE - Hara Breathing (you can lie, sit or stand for this exercise)
1. Place your hands on your abdomen horizontally so that your 2 middle fingers are touching
2. Breathing in you should notice that your hands start to part - do not worry if this does not happen. Transitioning to diaphragm breathing after chest breathing for most of your life can be challenging. It is best to practice this for about 5-10 minutes daily. Beginners to this exercise may find that their hands do not separate, practice makes perfect when performing this exercise!
3. As you breathe out your 2 middle fingers should touch again in the middle of your abdomen. While breathing in and out make sure NOT to use force, instead gently guide your breath into your abdomen.
It is also recommended to breath through the nose and not the mouth, as the nose is more efficient at filtering the air we breath. This exercise can also improve your posture if you have a straight back and your neck is inline with the body.
If you suffer from respiratory conditions it is best to consult your healthcare professional or perform under supervision. With all breathing exercises it is best to wear loose fitting clothing and to avoid practicing in whether that is too hot or cold or in areas that have high levels of pollution and smoke.
Next time you feel stressed and need a quick calming fix, just focus on your breathing. Remember to breathe deeply all the way into your abdomen. You will be amazed at how quickly calmness washes over you, and how much more energised and focused you feel. Breathe well!
Love and gratitude.