How To Breathe Better:

by Carole Fogarty

“One way to break up any kind of tension is good deep breathing” Byron Nelson

When your breathing is restricted it creates an unseen chain reaction in the body that can greatly compromise your overall health, well-being and ability to think clearly.

You can literally create miracles simply by adjusting the flow of your breath.  Imagine being able to reduce stress hormones, calm your emotions, boost your oxygen intake, gently massage your internal organs, let stress go, come back to your centre, relax your muscles, detox your body and simply improve the overall efficiency of your organs and body.

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Photo by szlea’s

As Christmas nears and life is probably getting a little busier and crazier than usual, now is the perfect time for us all  (myself included)  to remember to breathe.

I  do my best to come back to my breath often (probably 2 or 3 times each hour), spending a few small minutes to observe it and adjust as necessary.   Most times I need to relax, soften and deepen it.  At the same time I repeat a mantra that I have borrowed from Thich Nhat Hanh  “Breathing in I am calm, breathing out I smile.”

I guarantee calming your breath over Christmas can be a real sanity saver.     I personally find it helps bring me back to my centre,  re-aligns my focus (slows down rushing thoughts) and creates a healthy buffer around me from the busyness of the outside world.  Spending longer on the exhale is like pushing tension and stress away from you. Holding your breath is like sucking it in and calling it closer.

Breathe peacefully over Christmas and enjoy these very simple breathing tips.

How to breathe better:

1: Lift your chest:

Rounded shoulders and sunken chest squish your lungs and restrict your oxygen intake.  Give your body, lungs and organs some more breathing space.  Improve your posture and open your chest up.

2: Breathe past your collar bones:

Short shallow breathing is the sign of a stressed, tense body with thoughts to match.  Simply soften, relax and deepen your inhale each time you catch yourself in panic mode with short, shallow  breathing.

3:  Don’t squeeze your stomach in when you inhale:

A relaxed soft belly allows your lungs and diaphragm to fully expand.  Squeezing the tummy in (on the inhale ) restricts your oxygen intake.

4:  Breathe into your belly:

Feeling your belly rise and fall with each breath cycle is something I am taught regularly in yoga.  Place your hands on your belly and feel them rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale.  It’s a fabulous way to know for sure that your breath is reaching all the way down to your belly.

5:  Fill the front, sides and back of your belly:

If you are keen to get extra clever – feel the front, sides and back of your belly area expand with each inhale.   You might notice, like me, that the back area of your belly is often tighter and not as open as the front or sides.

Simply bring your awareness and breath to any tight areas of your belly and use the breath to invite more softness and spaciousness.  Ah! use your exhale to let go, release and create that extra space inside your belly area.

6:  Un-hunch your shoulders:

Hunched shoulders block the flow of blood and energy to your brain.  Relax your shoulders, open your chest, lengthen your neck and create more breathing space between your shoulder blades. Notice how much easier it is to breath now.

It also wouldn’t hurt to part your lips slightly and make sure no tension is being held in your jaw.

7: Exhale fully:

As you exhale fully and deeply, feel your belly button move towards your spine.   Use your exhale to remove all that stale, stuck yucky air and energy lingering in the bottom of your lungs.

8: Exhale longer:

Spend longer on the exhale if you are wanting to slow your thoughts down, relax your body or let go of something. Use your exhale to create a healthy breathing space between you and the busyness of the outside world.

If I’m a bit frazzled spending twice as long on the exhale is a quick way to re-balance my breathing and energies.

9:  Stop holding your breath.

When you start paying more attention to your breath you may find that you hold your breath more often than you realize. Simply being aware is the perfect first step towards improving the quality of your breath.

10:  Your nose is for breathing, your mouth for eating:

In all the practices I have explored over the years – yoga, tai chi, qi gong they have all encouraged to breath in and out through the nose.

* 12 great reasons to start alternate nostril breathing

Recommended resources:

If you are keen to improve the quality of your breathing even more and acquire a deeper knowledge, then there is no better place to start than with one of Dennis Lewis books.

Book 1 – The Tao of Natural Breathing: By Dennis Lewis:

Book 2 – Free Your Breath, Free Your Life: By Dennis Lewis.

Following are a couple of articles which may also appeal to you.

How you sit effects your breathing by Dennis Lewis

Deep breathing facts by Dennis Lewis

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What I’m really, really  loving:

The Path of Practice: A Woman’s Book of  Healing With Food, Breath and Sound by Maya Tiwari

I absolutely love this book.  It”s certainly my favourite book for 2011. I felt such a connection – it brought tears to my eyes – on more than one occasion.

Don’t you love it when a book really resonates with you.

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I absolutely love listening to Ananga play the beautiful Udana flute.  Her flute music is one of the most soothing and relaxing sounds on this planet”  Carole Fogarty

Click here to sample the 9 tracks

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