Hello lovely blog-followers and happy July! Today, I'd like to talk about something that is truly not to be underestimated….DEEP BREATHING!
The importance of this exercise has come up in several conversations recently, and is a critical topic to consider and practice every day. It seems to me that the idea of deep breathing, taking even just 5-10 minutes each day to engage in deep belly (aka, diaphragmatic) breathing, is something that is seen as too simple to really make that much of a difference. I mean, in order to truly relax and slow our minds down, don’t we have to take a vacation? Or at least survive the week until the glorious freedom of Friday night-Sunday is upon us? Well, I for one don’t want to spend 5 days per week in a constant state of high-alert where my stress hormones are running wild causing my digestion to be off, mood to be unstable, sleep to suffer, and other fun-filled symptoms. Deep breathing is really not as easy as we might think, as we tend to live in a this state of perpetual non-relaxation, and actually need to intentionally train our bodies and minds to sit for even 5 minutes and focus solely on our breath.
So…what is actually happening in the body and what does deep breathing do??
Great question, Rachel. Thanks guys. Our nervous system has two states of being: parasympathetic and sympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is our fight or flight response, it is where we live when we are on high alert, running from the tiger, needing adrenaline for survival. When in this state, we cannot digest, for example, because blood is being diverted to more important tasks. It is crucial and truly amazing that our body is able to kick into this gear, and essential for human survival. In a training I attended recently, the presenter suggested a humorous example of a caveman walking through the forest, hearing a rustling in the bushes, and instead of being on guard that that sound might be a lion, thinking to himself, “oh, I wonder if that’s my friend Hank!” Thankfully, the brain is smart enough to not make life-compromising assumptions.
The parasympathetic nervous system is, on the contrary, what allows our body to relax, it is our ‘rest and digest’ mode. It also is responsible for bodily functions such as salivation, sexual arousal, urination and defecation. We cannot effectively do these things in the sympathetic mode.
Since we are rarely actually running from a tiger anymore these days, our sympathetic nervous system now gets turned to a perpetual state of ‘on’ due to our high stress, busy lives, and it is of utmost importance that we learn how to switch it to ‘off,’ and deep breathing is a great tool.
So with that said, please read below to learn a technique for deep breathing, or engage in any type of meditation you may prefer. However you do it, remember that is really is a practice not to be underestimated!
Benefits of Deep Breathing:
● Has a relaxing, calming, and centering effect on the mind ● Enables for more restful and deeper sleep ● Encourages proper breathing from the diaphragm ● Oxygenates the blood ● Clears residual carbon dioxide from the lungs
Deep Breathing Technique:
Start by sitting comfortably in a crossed legged position, or laying flat on the back. Close your eyes, straighten your spine, elongate your neck, relax your face and body.
1) Inhale through your nose, focusing on filling the belly with your breath as if it is a balloon; exhale, expelling all breath from your belly through your nose, pulling in the stomach to make sure it is empty of air. Watch that your breathing is smooth and relaxed, without any strain. Repeat several times, and then move on to the next type of breath.
2) Perform the next inhale like the one before, except, when the belly is full of air, breath in a little more so the air enters the lower chest. Focusing on expanding the rib cage. Exhale from the chest first, then exhale from the belly as described for the previous type of breath. Repeat this for several times before transitioning to the third and final type of breath.
3) Inhale into the belly, then lower chest, then upper chest focusing on expanding and lifting your collarbones. Exhale through the nose, from the upper chest first, then lower chest, then the belly. Continue this for ten breaths.
Imagine there is a balloon inside of your diaphram. When you inhale the balloon starts to expand from the base of the belly up to the collarbones. When exhaling the air is released from the top of the collarbones to the bottom of the belly.
Belly - Rib Cage – Collarbones
The best times to utilize 3 part breath is before meals to calm and center the Central Nervous System. This can help with over eating. Also, before bed to relax the mind, clear out negative thoughts and ease anxiety.
Try practicing this breath in your daily life, sitting at the computer, walking, cooking, or even while in the shower!