Breathing is the one thing we can live without for the shortest period of time. It’s automatic, and it’s rarely something we think about. How’s your breathing? Once we start thinking about our breath we have a tendency to start shaping it and controlling it. Did you do that just now?
Did you know that the WAY you breathe can have a huge impact on you physiologically? In yoga, we talk about using our diaphragms when we breathe. This is important because as we exhale our diaphragm stimulates our vagus nerve telling our heart rate to slow down. This, in turn, lowers our blood pressure, and also signals to our brain that we are safe. In times of stress, or while wearing tight pants, we tend to breathe into our ribs and collarbones more, reducing our ability to regulate our heart rate. Proper deep breathing helps reduce anxiety and depression, it helps us think clearly, and focus better.
So how do you breathe properly? Read more to find out.
Sit comfortably. Feel free to lean against a wall or the back of your couch. You can also lay down if that feels better, but bend the knees and place something underneath them for support. (make sure you’re not wearing tight clothes)
Place your hands on your belly
Close your eyes
Take a deep breath in and feel your hands lift up as your belly expands
Notice your hands lower as you exhale and your belly contracts
Now, if at first, you don’t notice the rise and fall of the belly, try over-exaggerating the movement. It’s perfectly fine to allow your abdominal muscles to expand outward and contract inward with the breath. Once this feels comfortable or rhythmic, reduce the effort and see if it can happen on its own.
If you have a fear of needles, deep breathing before getting your blood drawn or injecting yourself with fertility medications, can help ease the stress and the perceived pain. And for the rest of life, seriously! Whenever you feel stressed, or need a mood boost, take two minutes (or more) to sit and breathe deeply.