The Art of Breathing
Our very first act as a human being was to take a breath. Breathing is so much a part of our existence that we rarely give it much thought; on average, human beings breathe 25,000 times a day - and of those we probably pay attention to close to zero. Although breathing on auto-pilot might be good enough for some, learning how to use breath to your advantage day-to-day can influence your mood, productivity, and interactions with the outside world.
Most of us take shallow breaths, which means we don't take in enough oxygen, and don't expel enough carbon dioxide from our bodies. Shallow breathing and the improper intake/outtake of breath can lead to lethargy, a lack of focus, and increased stress. The reasons for this are all very primal; our breathing influences our nervous system and gives our body different signals for how alert or relaxed we need to be, and what state of mind we need to enter. Shallow breaths through the mouth trigger a stress response; as if we're being chased and need to get out of here, stat. Deep breaths in through the nose trigger the opposite response by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, which tells you everything is all right. The art of breathing is about finding a balance between the two; engaging them as and when you need. So, how do we start?
Setting a daily reminder throughout the day to check in with your breathing brings your awareness to the otherwise unconscious act. Take the time to breathe in deeply; put your hand on your chest and belly, and make sure that the breaths you take are deep enough to reach all the way down to your stomach.
Centre Your Breath
There are hundreds of different breathing techniques out there, the most popular of which is counting your breaths in and out. Sometimes known as Box Breathing, this technique is very simple; take a breath in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts, and hold for four counts. Repeating this pattern a minimum of four times is centring, and you'll find it removes unnecessary chatter from your brain.
If you've ever taken a yoga class or listened to a guided meditation, it's likely that you've experienced the ocean breath technique. This simple method is usually best done in quiet, peaceful surroundings; start by taking a long, deep breath through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. Try not to overthink this one; the goal is deep relaxation.
Utilising your breath to wake you up is also possible. Whether it's the post-lunch lull or on a drive home after a long day, when you feel your energy begin to lag start taking breaths in and out through your nose, eventually getting faster and faster. Aim for two or three in-out breaths per second, and you can build this method up over time as it becomes more familiar.
Breathing is a lot more than something we do without a second thought; it influences our mood, controls our emotions, and can bring us back to the present moment. We've just scratched the surface of the art of breathing, and would love to hear about your favourite breathing techniques. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org