As life gets busier, many of us forget to give enough attention to the way we breathe.
With stress levels rising, it’s important to look at ways to integrate more self-care into daily routines. One way to make a rapid and significant improvement in your physical, mental and emotional health is by slowing down and deepening your breath.
Think of it as a valuable tool which is free and available at any moment. The quality of our breath, and the way it flows through our bodies, has the ability to dramatically enhance or inhibit wellbeing.
We each inhale and exhale around 20,000 times a day. For most people, breath becomes shallower with age. Slowly but surely, shallow breathing and a tense disposition can become a normal way of being, unless we consciously do something about it.
When we’re stressed or anxious, the first thing that’s affected is our breath – the chest tightens, oxygen levels in the body drop and an anxious feeling takes hold. Knowing some simple breathing techniques can help during times like these.
To manage stress, try allowing the abdomen to rise and expand like a balloon as you inhale, then gently fall back with a longer exhalation.
There are many different breathing techniques, some quite complex, including powerful dynamic diaphragmatic breathing which activates the parasympathetic nervous system by stimulating the vagus nerve – the 10th cranial nerve extending from the brainstem to the abdomen (that carries signals to and from the digestive system and organs to the brain).
Breathing deeply evokes a feeling of calm and facilitates digestion. As you reduce the number of breaths per minute and move into a parasympathetic mode, your muscles relax, feelings of anxiety lessen and oxygen increases in the cells of your body.
This in turn produces endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormones.
Focusing on breathing helps quieten the mind and brings you back to the present moment.
When doing the breath meditation, if your mind wanders, don’t pay attention to it. Instead label it as just ‘thinking’ and with loving kindness, bring your awareness back to the breath and the present moment.
The simple act of sitting and breathing naturally in silence, accepting whatever rises from moment to moment without judgement, absorbed in the now, can be one of the most peaceful experiences in life.
Over time, the wandering mind will settle as your breath becomes your best friend and you find a state of inner calm.
Because breathing has such an impact on daily life, it’s worth reflecting on how you breathe, and exploring the many benefits of regular deep breathing and breath meditation practice.
If you’re in the Northern Rivers of NSW, Byron Bay Detox Retreats can help you reclaim the power of breath.