Did you know that learning to control your breath is key to good health and mental wellbeing?
Ancient yogis knew about the power of the breath – if you slow your breath, you calm your body and the chatter in your mind. Is this ancient knowledge still relevant today? Absolutely! In this world of anxiety and stress, controlling your breath can help improve your wellbeing, helping you to feel calmer, more rested and less stressed. There are many different types of complex breathing techniques, but breath expert Patrick McKeown, helpfully offers a place to start that is simple and to the point:
Your nose is for breathing; your mouth is for eating.
The way our breathing is designed to work is that nose breathing activates abdominal breathing, whilst mouth breathing activates your upper chest. If you take a deep breath in, you may find yourself breathing air in through your mouth, puffing out your chest and sucking your stomach in; this breath may be big, but it is certainly not deep, as your chest is only half way down your lungs, so in reality your breath is actually rather shallow. A deep breath is breathing in through your nose, down into the bottom of your lungs using your diaphragm, so your abdomen gently rises and falls.
Research has shown that mouth breathing is synonymous with our fight-or-fight response as your body prepares to take in greater volumes of air ready to fight or run! So, not particularly calming. Mouth breathers may also suffer from lack of concentration and energy, dehydration and snoring.
Nasal breathing however is synonymous with our rest and digest response, which tells your body it’s OK to calm and relax. Your nose is an important organ that warms the incoming air, whilst filtering out germs and bacteria. Also, if you want to improve your levels of fitness, nasal breathing during exercise helps maximise body oxygenation.
I know that you all know how to breathe! But there are hundreds of different breath techniques that you may find more helpful, more relaxing and prove to be more valuable to you in this crazy world than the one that you are using. All my classes experiment with different breath techniques – so you can find one that resonates with you on any particular day.
So, if you want to help breathe yourself better, then do take a deep breath… but make sure it’s the right kind. Please feel free to book on to a class and give it a try: Book here.
You may find learning to breathe in a different way life-changing: I know I have!
Patrick McKeown (2015) The Oxygen Advantage, Piatkus, London – Link