I’ve been teaching Yoga for 15 years and I also use breathing techniques in both my Life Coaching and Hypnotherapy practices…The look on people’s faces when I first announce that I’m going to teach them how to breathe is normally pretty comical, a look of confusion!
I know it seems bonkers to be teaching the successful entrepreneurs and CEOs of large companies how to breathe, but seriously most people are not breathing properly and we are underestimating how this is affecting not only our general health and wellbeing, but crucially our energy levels, concentration, focus, productivity and even emotional wellbeing!
To give a deeper insight, most people are only breathing through their upper chest when they inhale. I see it time and time again, this results in an imbalance of oxygen to carbon dioxide resulting in hyperventilation, fatigue and even dizziness, not to mention the effect that this has on your digestive system (if you’re wanting to lose or manage weight, breathing is a huge contributing factor! – more about that in my next article!)
Take a hint from nature. If you can, look at how a baby breathes; naturally its stomach will expand and contract as it inhales and exhales. Correct breathing should be full and rhythmic and the stomach should expand as the fresh air is drawn in through the nose and taken into the lungs. I always teach this full diaphragmatic breathing technique, it looks as if you have a balloon in your stomach that you are blowing up as you inhale, and deflating as you exhale.
This way of breathing promotes a full change of air – the oxygen and carbon dioxide ratio will be balanced. As we inhale we are bringing energy into the body and as we exhale the body relaxes. When we breathe properly we restore health and vitality and brain function which affects us on every level. It’s so surprising that most of us are breathing such short shallow breaths which when combined with bad posture, our sedentary lifestyles and stress create a recipe for poor function, anxiety and reduced productivity.
When we are stressed we breathe more rapidly which upsets the acid-alkaline balance in the blood and compromises our immune system. This is yet another reason to really work on your breath control. In contrast, slowing the breathing raises the carbon dioxide levels in the blood and brings the pH levels into a healthier state – this engages the parasympathetic nervous system and helps to soothe us in a number of ways.
Correct breathing acts as a natural tranquilliser to the nervous system the deeper you breathe the calmer the mind…When you focus on your breath and work on elongating each breath you will create a state of calm throughout the whole body, you will feel connected to your entire body and will bring about more focus and concentration. When you have a calm and centred sense of yourself then creativity is improved, clarity of each thought is heightened thus bringing about more productivity…
STOP what you are doing right now…..be still and take a big deep breath and then exhale as deep as you can, start by breathing in slowly – always through the nose, fill your belly with as much air as you can – you may want to put your hands onto your belly so that you can feel what is going on.
Whilst doing this keep the top of your chest still, fill your belly up first and then allow the breath to come up into the ribs and then finally into the chest.
This may take a little practice but setting some time aside every day, even practising whilst driving or on the train or even better when you’re at your office desk. Work on slowing the breathing down even further and then when you get really good, start to add in a few seconds pause at the top and the bottom of the breath. Breath retention (in the yoga world) can be a super powerful practice.
Eventually you can try breathing in for 4 counts, holding the breath for 4, releasing for 4 and then holding the breath out for 4 counts. Become aware of how you feel when you’re doing this and for the time after I know that you will start to feel the benefits immediately.