3 Ways To Breathe Better
You have probably heard it a million times in your yoga classes, but there is valid reason why your yoga teacher harps on about the breath; we forget to breathe. As ridiculous as this may sound, many people spend their days holding their breath as they go about their day to day activities. People often live unconsciously and tend to just go through the motions. I believe that if we can act more consciously, we can live better. So below I have listed my top 3 ways that you can breathe better, relax your body and help you realise that life can be a whole lot easier when we breathe mindfully.
I start with awareness because you won’t be able to improve your breathing unless you are aware of how you are breathing. And if you are wondering how to bring awareness to your breath consider the following:
Am I breathing through my nose or my mouth?
Do I hold my breath when completing tasks?
Does my belly expand when I breathe in and soften when I breathe out?
Once you bring your awareness to your natural spontaneous breath, then you can begin to make subtle changes to enhance your breath and improve your health.
Using awareness on the breath is also one of the quickest ways to bring you into the present moment. Your attention to the way you breathe brings your into a mindful experience and practicing mindfulness is a proven method for optimum mental health. When you are in the present moment, you can move through life more consciously making better decisions for yourself and your environment.
Keep Your Mouth Closed
This is one of the most important aspects of your yoga practice – nasal breathing. Though it may take some time to master if you have spent most of your life breathing through your mouth, stick with it.
Unfortunately when we inhale and exhale through the mouth, we spend our days in a state of constant stress. The pupils dilate, the mouth may feel dry, the heart needs to beat a little faster and this can contribute to feelings of anxiety. The stress hormones in the body rise and over time this can be quite detrimental to our overall health and wellbeing.
When we breathe through our nose, we tap into what is called our parasympathetic nervous system. Without getting too technical, this basically means that when you nasal breathe you allow the body to get more oxygen, thus putting less strain on your heart. Nasal breathing also reduces cortisol levels in the body, minimizing stress. Athletes are reaping the benefits of yogic nasal breathing as it builds stamina. Once the heart is relaxed, the body has the ability to go faster for longer. The added bonus of keeping your mouth closed is that you talk less! Yes – talking less and listening more may actually help you communicate better in the long run.
Deepen Your Breath
Often when people think of ‘deepening’ the breath, you tend to take a huge breath. But what ‘deepen’ actually means is lengthening the breath. Imagine the breath going deep into your belly – to the lower parts of your lungs. And as you are breathing out, imagine the lungs expelling all the air out. To help you determine whether you are taking deeper breaths, pay attention to the rise and fall of the belly or the expansion of your rib cage. Without using force on the breath, allow the belly to be soft so you can feel it expand with the inhale and relax on the exhale. Lengthening the exhale allows your body to empty itself of stagnant air in the lungs so that the inhale refreshes you.
So if you haven’t already yet today, take a moment to enjoy a long deep inhale and an easy exhale.