It’s a given, right? We all know how to breathe... We automatically alter our breath depending on what we're doing - speeding it up when exercising or slowing it down when relaxing. But what if we could really control our breath, could we lead calmer lives? Could it help our body to heal?
Breathing classes are becoming a new trend on the health circuit, encouraging us all to focus on how we inhale and exhale. The importance of breathing is not however a new thing, yoga has long focused on Prana or life force and the importance it has on how our bodies function. In yoga, it's even thought that it can elongate our life by using our breath more efficiently and consciously.
So, what are the benefits of breathing properly?
- It helps you relax - lowering the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol on your body.
- Reduces blood pressure - breathing deeply relaxes muscles and helps your blood vessels dilate, this stimulates circulation and can reduce blood pressure.
- Lowers heart rate – deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which reduces the ‘fight or flight' response, that can cause tension, thus lowering the heart rate.
- Provides pain relief - when suffering from chronic pain, we tend to tense our muscles, which worsens the pain, by breathing deeply we can relax our muscles, increase oxygen flow, and provide a distraction for the mind to ease the pain.
- Reduces anxiety – breathing deeply allows a few minutes to take our mind away from the day-to-day life, allowing focus on calmness and relief from distress.
- Enhances immunity – it's believed that deep breathing can even improve our immune system by oxygenating your blood so vital nutrients can be carried more effectively, giving your body the best chance to fight viruses.
As can be seen, there are many benefits from deep breathing and although being mindful of it isn't easy, the potential to make a positive change to your life is massive. There are many different methods, it's worth trying them all to find your favourite technique.
- Sit in a comfortable position or lie flat on a comfortable surface.
- Relax, concentrate on your shoulders and back.
- Put a hand on your chest and your stomach.
- Breathe in through your nose, feeling the air expanding into your abdomen, this should make your stomach expand.
- Exhale slowly for about two seconds, though pursed lips.
- Repeat these steps several times for best results.
- Start by closing your eyes and imagine smelling your favourite scent.
- Breathe in for the count of two.
- Breathe out for the count of four.
- Repeat for a minute.
- Stand up and close your eyes.
- Inhale deeply.
- Exhale until all air has been emptied from your lungs.
- Keep your eyes closed! Now, inhale again while picturing the number 1.
- Keep the air in your lungs for a few seconds, then let it all out.
- Inhale again while picturing the number 2.
- Hold your breath while counting silently to 3, then let it all out again.
- Repeat these steps until you’ve reached 8. Feel free to count higher if you feel comfortable.
In today’s stressful world developing a breathing routine can be a great way to improve your physical and mental wellbeing. Accompanied by a healthy lifestyle we can help our bodies work at their full potential.
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