Breathing – the key to a healthy life

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Breathing – it’s something we all take for granted. Taking oxygen into our body and expelling carbon dioxide and other toxins is what keeps us alive and yet, sometimes taking a full breath is something we are often not very good at.

I didn’t realise that I was breathing incorrectly until I was taught how to breathe properly. Taking a proper full breath is more than just taking life-giving oxygen into your body – breathing properly bathes the organs in new blood and oxygen; it gently slows the heartbeat, stabilises blood pressure and improves digestion. It actually makes you feel lighter and more relaxed. It also helps you sleep better. The difference between both your physical and mental state once you learn how to take a full breath can be quite incredible.

Dysfunctional breathing, on the other hand, leads to foggy heads, muscle soreness, anxiety and poor digestion.

What is ‘bad’ breathing?

This is where you take shallow, inconsistent breaths. The oxygen seems to get to the top of your legs and then just stop. You take quick breaths and yawn constantly to clear the build-up of stale air in your lungs. This type of breathing could be due to a number of factors, but mostly it is down to our stressed, hurried lives.

Full breaths involve taking oxygen down into your lower abdomen, thus creating more room for our lungs to inflate, ensuring a healthy exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide.

Of course, changing the way you breathe is no easy task. You might have been shallow breathing for years so this re-training will not be an overnight fix. The best way to improve your breathing technique is to go to a yoga class and learn from the professionals. There are a range of classes and instructors working at Kelsey Kerridge and they will be able to help.

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For a self-help approach, try this exercise to bring an instant sense of peace and calm:

Sit or lie in a quiet comfortable spot where you won’t be disturbed.

Take a long, deep exhalation through the mouth.

Close your mouth and inhale through your nose, directing the breath deep into your centre.

Exhale slowly through your mouth, imagine the air flowing smoothly from your body.

Continue to slowly exhale through the mouth and inhale through the nose.

Visualise the body inhaling calmly and physically relaxing on each exhalation.

Try to keep this going for 3-5 minutes and notice the change it makes to your day.

The first time I tried this technique I found myself panicking and instead of helping me to relax I became very uptight and my breathing became even more shallow and ‘jerky’, but I applied the same principles as I do to physical training – you will only get better through practice. Broga Yoga fitness classOver time, and this was a few months ago, I have noticed a huge improvement in my breathing. I still have moments, usually when a deadline is looming or I am about to go into a tricky meeting, when my breath becomes shallow and disjointed but now I have a remedy and with a few deep breaths I can get everything back on track.

Benefits of ‘good’ breathing:

  • Full breaths will:
    Improve the cardiovascular system by increasing circulation to the heart, liver, brain and reproductive organ
  • Release muscle tension. When we take shallow breaths our muscle tissues contract, causing tension. Deep breathing releases this.
  • Increase energy – oxygen is vital to our everyday existence. With more oxygen pouring into our bodies muscles will work harder for longer.
  • Improve our mental state. A deep, full breath relaxes the mind and helps us memorise and concentrate. the brain requires a lot of oxygen to function, so better supply is (sorry) a no-brainer!