We do it at least 20,000 times a day, but it seems that we still don’t get it right. “Observe a baby breathing; they breathe fully and completely into their chest and belly. As we get older, our breathing patterns change in response to life experience, suppressed emotions and habits.” says yoga and breathing expert Kirsty Gallagher.
When we’re stressed or upset, we hold our breath and our inhalations can become shallower. And this type of breathing can become the norm. “This triggers the ‘fight or flight’ stress response,” says Kirsty. So how do we break this cycle?
Tune into your breathing
“The best way is to start spending some time each day with your breath,” says Kirsty. Begin by simply noticing your breath. Are you breathing into your chest or belly? Is the inhale or exhale longer or shorter? Begin to consciously deepen and lengthen the breath. Don’t force anything and start slowly. Try taking the breath all the way down into the bottom of your belly, and breathe fully and deeply. You may also choose one of the breathing techniques and work on them for a few minutes every day to reset your breath.
The benefits of breathing better
Deep breathing massages your body’s lymphatic system, which helps to eliminate waste and toxins from the body. “Proper breathing can also help us to tap into control and release our emotions,” explains Kirsty. When we stifle an emotion, we subconsciously hold our breath, which can make us feel even worse. “Tuning into your breath and learning how to breathe fully and completely is a great self-healing tool,” she says.
It can also help alleviate stress and keep the mind calm. And slower breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which supports a range of positive effects, including better sleep and relaxation, and reducing stress.