Whatever the demands of the previous year, plus all the over-indulging over Christmas, the New Year is always seen as good time to get back on track.
New Year resolutions often involve dieting or cutting out or reducing the types of food and drink that are not particularly good for your body, mind or soul. Plus, those gym and exercise class offers look so enticing…
Learning to breathe more efficiently is something you perhaps haven’t considered as part of your new brush approach. We all know that breath is essential to life but most people do not appreciate how it can affect so many areas of life, including our new year resolutions.
Breathing is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do when we leave. In between that time, we take about half a billion breaths. What we may not realize is that the mind, body, and breath are intimately connected and can influence each other. Our breathing is influenced by our thoughts, and our thoughts and physiology can be influenced by our breath. Learning to breathe consciously and with awareness can be a valuable tool in helping to restore balance in the mind and body.
Breath is a Tool to Counter Stress
When you experience stressful thoughts, your sympathetic nervous system triggers the body’s ancient fight-or-flight response, giving you a burst of energy to respond to the perceived danger. Your breathing becomes shallow and rapid, and you breathe primarily through the mouth and from the chest and not the lower lungs. This can make you feel short of breath, which is a common symptom when you feel anxious or frustrated. At the same time, your body produces a surge of hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), which increase your blood pressure and pulse rate and puts you in a revved-up state of high alert.
With relaxed, slower breathing, you can reverse these symptoms instantly and create a sense of calm in your mind and body. When you breathe deeply from the abdomen and slowly and through the nose only, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which reverses the stress response in your body. Deep breathing stimulates the main nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system—the vagus nerve—slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and calming your body and mind.
In addition, with deep breathing, you engage the abdominal muscles and diaphragm instead of the muscles in the upper chest and neck. This allow for more air exchange to occur in the lower lungs, which is much more efficient for your body. It also reduces strain on the muscles of the neck and upper chest, allowing these muscles to relax. In short, deep abdominal nose breathing is more relaxing and efficient, allowing higher volumes of oxygen to reach the body’s cells, organs and tissues.
As well as reversing the physical stress response in the body, this slower and deeper abdominal breathing can help calm and slow down the emotional turbulence in the mind. Breathing can have an immediate effect on diffusing emotional energy so there is less reactivity to our emotions.
Deeper Breathing Techniques
Beyond the practice of simple deep breathing, the ancient yogis described different types of rhythmic deep breathing techniques that can have differing effects on the mind and body. In fact, many studies document the beneficial effects of yogic breathing in treating depression, anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), COPD (chronic destructive pulmonary disease), and asthma. (3,4, 5) There are also theories that support the notion that by slowing down and controlling the breath, we can improve our longevity. (3)
By controlling the breath, you can influence every aspect of your life. You can train yourself to breathe in a way that has a positive influence on your health.
I can teach you several different breathing techniques, including complete belly breath, alternate nostril breathing, ocean’s breath (sharp exhalation), and the life enhancing energising breath.
A regular daily practice of deeper abdominal nose breathing is one of the best tools for improving your health and well-being. Performing one of these breath techniques twice daily for only three to five minutes can produce long-term benefits. You can also use them any time you are feeling stressed or notice that your breathing has become constricted. By training your body with a regular practice of deeper nose-led breathing, you will begin to breathe more effectively even without concentrating on it.
The Breathing Studio is here to help whatever your current health situation is or if you need support with you New Year’s resolutions! http//www.dealingwithanxiety.co.uk
“Healing is every breath.” ~ Thich Nhat Hahn
- Brown, RP, et al. Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part 1-neurophysiologic model. J Altern Complement Med 2005 Apr;11(2):383-4.
- Harvard Medical School. Harvard Health Publications. Stress Management: Approaches for preventing and reducing stress.
- Brown, RP, et al. Yoga breathing, meditation, and longevity. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2009 Aug 1172:54-62.
- Katiyar, SK, et al. Role of Pranayama in Rehabilitation of COPD patients—a Randomized Controlled Study. Indian J Allergy Asthma Immunol 2006;20(2):98-104.
- Seppala, EM, et al. Breathing-based meditation decreases posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in US military veterans: a randomized controlled longitudinal study. J Trauma Stress. 2014 Aug;27(4):397-405.
- Manoj K. Bhasin, Jeffery A. Dusek, Bei-Hung Chang, Marie G. Joseph, John W. Denninger, Gregory L. Fricchione, Herbert Benson, Towia A. Libermann. Relaxation Response Induces Temporal Transcriptome Changes in Energy Metabolism, Insulin Secretion and Inflammatory Pathways. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (5): e62817 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062817