It’s a process we all take for granted – our breath is our life. Yet, many people remain unaware that deep breathing can help beat stress – and calm and centre your life. How many times have we heard those seemingly simple instructions: ‘Just take a few deep breaths and you’ll be fine’? It’s the sort of comment that’s made when we appear anxious, down, nervous or stressed.
Research has found that deep breathing can calm us. So it’s official!
In Eastern cultures, it’s long been recognized that mindful breathing is essential for maintaining life force energy or chi. In yoga, the breath is all important and the ultimate aim of yoga practice is to calm the mind and focus the attention on the breath.
It’s becoming increasingly recognized in Western culture that one of the most beneficial things you can do to improve your body and mind – to achieve calm well-being – is to breath deeply and purposefully.
However, a lot of the time, most of us get the breathing wrong.
Deep breathing sounds simple enough but there is technique involved.
Mostly, we do it incorrectly because we do the opposite of what we are meant to do. We suck in the stomach as we inhale and leave less room for air in the lungs. We might also lift our shoulders and only fill the top third of our lungs. This results in taking in only the bare minimum of oxygen.
Lung capacity is diminished by bad habits like slouching – and when we’re stressed – our posture is invariably affected. Many people have become habitual ‘chest breathers’.
You breathe deeply when you push downwards on your diaphragm. Your diaphragm is the large muscle at the base of your stomach. This allows your lungs to fill up with air, starting at the bottom and reaching all the way to the top.
This deep breathing improves the general functioning of our bodies because it allows for the optimal supply of oxygen to all our organs and it helps detoxification by stimulating the lymphatic system.
By breathing deeply, we can clear our minds and improve our focus and concentration.
We are calmer, more centered and refreshed.
You can read more about the importance of breath and how your conscious breath can calm you in Slowing the Pace: Losing the hurry habit and moving towards a balanced life
Begin by repeating this cycle five times in the beginning and with practice build up repeating it to ten times.
Helpful tip: use this technique whenever you feel stressed – breathe in for five, breathe out for five – and you’ll feel much calmer.