Breathing is an involuntary, autonomic bodily function. The diaphragm lowers and the lungs expand, drawing air in. The diaphragm raises and the lungs return to their starting position, expelling old air.
Although breath is automatic, it can be consciously manipulated to create astounding effects. Some people, like singers, athletes and wind instrumentalists, may already be aware that they can control the breath to achieve their desired effect – be it a longer sustained note, a gorgeous coloratura passage or the final follow through on a weighted back squat. Others use their breath to change not just the physical, but the psychological, and that is what we are going to get into today.
Let’s first talk about BAD breathing habits. As stress and tension creep into our bodies, we can develop breathing habits that aren’t the most conducive to our sustained well being. Do you recognize any of these?
- Holding your breath – common sign of stress, tension, or anxiety.
- “Breathing” by raising and lowering the shoulders, not expanding through the midsection – a learned habit that doesn’t actually make breathing any easier or more effective.
- Slouching/hunching over a workspace – this can take away from the full expansion of the breath.
These are all learned habits that we develop as adults. If you or someone you know has an infant or baby, watch the baby breathe for a while. You’ll notice a full, belly-breath (no shoulder tension whatsoever) and no slouching. The goal is to get back to that quality of breath.
Secondly, let’s talk about the restorative power of breath. This is the conscious manipulation part. According to this study out of the University of New Mexico, conscious deep breathing has been known to reduce stress, stabilize blood pressure and heart beat, and improve immune function. Deep breathing can also ground you, making you feel more present and in the moment. Eliminating distracting thoughts and negative feelings can help you be more productive throughout your entire day.
If you are still unsure about the power of deep breathing, try it! Take 5 minutes for yourself each morning to simply sit and breathe. Be sure to consciously fill your lungs, expand through the belly and back, and to slowly expel the air (and along with it, negative thoughts and feelings). As an alternative, you can take a yoga class that focuses on Pranayama Breath, and/or ujjayi pranayama (which you’ll find typically in a vinyasa class).
What are you waiting for? Start creating your #sustainablehealth today, with the power of your own breath!
Once you’ve started your practice of deep breathing, incorporate strong breath work into your daily workout. Don’t workout daily because you’re pressed for time? Try our 7 proven hacks for finally getting your body back in under 10 minutes a day (without a gym!)
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