I am always telling my clients and students that “the breath” is their anchor in other words, Your Best Friend! It is SO powerful and so helpful. The breath is like your best friend because it is an energiser, a protector and something that can always help calm you down. It supports you on so many levels. “If your mind wanders you can always come back to the breath”. I find myself repeating this all the time in my scripts.
Did you know that humans take more than 20,000 breaths daily? It really is amazing, and we tend to not pay any attention to the breath unless something goes wrong.
The breath is fantastic gauge of our internal state of health. Respiration is the only autonomic function we have control over. When we are relaxed, we breathe slowly, and when we are anxious, we breathe quickly. Have you noticed that when you are calm the breath relaxes When we are in a rush the breath gets faster? When we panic, we end up with short shallow breaths?
When we breathe, we inhale oxygen, this process creates carbon dioxide (a waste product that we breathe out). When we are relaxed the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide are balanced. The oxygen and carbon dioxide levels can change when we are anxious the body responds by speeding up and we take in more oxygen and breathe out more carbon dioxide than normal. However, because the body isn’t working any harder, this leads to a temporary change in the pH of the blood and can cause hyperventilation. The change in carbon dioxide blood concentration can lead us to feeling lightheaded, we may experience some tingling in our fingers, tension in our tummies and sometimes we become sweaty.
Some simple Controlled Breathing Techniques help to release tension and help us enter the “relaxation response “state. The “Relaxation Response” is a term used by Harvard Professor, and pioneer in Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Herbert Benson.
It is the opposite of” fight-or-flight”. “Fight-or-flight” is a mechanism is activated when we are under stress and when we practice some controlled breathing, it helps mitigate the Fight-or-flight response. In scientific terms, it activates the para-sympathetic nervous system and we feel much calmer. It also provides a wide range of benefits, such as increased energy, enhanced cellular health, better brain function and healthier organs.
Here are some Controlled Breathing techniques that can really settle things down and help us feel better:
1. Basic Belly Breathing
- Sit comfortably on a chair or cushion in an upright position
- Let your chest open, shoulders relax and gently close your eyes
- Take a long breath in through your nose for a count of 4
- Hold your breath for a count of 2 and enjoy a little PAUSE
- Breathe out slowly for a count of 6. Try and extend the out breath. This is where the MAGIC happens. Your respiratory system, your nervous system, your circulatory system, your digestive system all benefits from this basic belly breathing.
You can place your hands on your belly and feel it gently expand into your palm on the breath in and deflate on the breath out.
2. Core Focussed Breathing
- Sit up straight, get comfortable and make sure your spine is straight
- Put your hands on your belly
- As you inhale expand the belly
- As you exhale, squeeze the breath out, curling forward
3. “HA” Technique
- Stand up straight with the elbows bent at a 90-degree angle and palms up
- As you inhale, draw the elbows back behind you, keeping your palms up
- Exhale quickly, thrusting your palms forward and turning them downward; say the word “HA”
- Repeat a few times