For this weeks blog post, I’d like to touch on a subject that is often overlooked. What plays a major role in the alignment and stability of your body, is critical for your survival and is also integral to maintaining a sense of calm?
It’s breathing. Your ability to breathe is truly amazing. It keeps you alive, it’s highly linked to how you feel and what state your body is in, it’s autonomic (you don’t have to tell yourself to breathe) but you can also take conscious control of it. The control and awareness of your breathing is your own little magic remedy for stress relief. Do a quick test now and count how many times you breathe in and out per minute.
A normal natural breathing rate is 12-16 full breaths (inhale and exhale) per minute. Obviously, when you are exercising breathing rate increases as a necessity of the need to transport more oxygen to the muscles for work. If you breathing rate is higher than normal for every day living this may be an indication that you are stressed. This could be mental, emotional or it could be nutritional or digestive. Whenever the body is disturbed or under stress it has the same response. Breathing rate increases with stress.
Discover your Depths
There are a few ways to breathe. The most common, although not most beneficial is chest breathing. This is a short sharp shallow breath, which is usually quite fast and is associated with the stress response. This type breathing contributes to getting more oxygen into the top area of your lungs as muscles in the upper back, shoulders and neck are use to lift the chest during strenuous exercise. This is not however, a breathing technique that should be used in every day life.
Breathing that causes pain and injury
When someone breathes like this they usually inhale and exhale through their mouth and this can often bring the head position forwards and create mild (and sometimes major) stress on the neck and shoulders. The body will also respond hormonally, as it thinks it’s under stress so it will secrete a low constant level of cortisol – the stress hormone.
Breathing for healing and recovery
Deep breathing/belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is a full breath where by the whole lungs are filled with air, the diaphragm drops down and the organs below it push out against the abdominal wall. Two thirds of a full breath happen below the chest, then last third of the breath should lift the chest if needed. This type of breathing takes the body into a state of relaxation and rest. Often a diaphragmatic breath is inhaled through the nose and exhaled out through the nose or in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Breathing for exercise
A simple effective berthing technique that helps you to relax and destress is to inhale for 6 counts hold your breath for 3 counts then exhale for 6 counts and rest for 3 counts. It takes a bit of time to slow down the breath so go easy to start. Practise this for 5 minutes a day and within a week it will seem easy.