The power of breathing has become mainstream! With Wim Hofs, Freeze the Fear currently on BBC, the nation is discovering the power of breathwork.
Of course, many of us natural health practitioners have been practicing some sort of mindful breathing or breathwork for years, so it’s good to see it gaining popularity.
The term Breathwork refers to any type of breathing exercises or technique where you intentionally change your breathing pattern. It can improve your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being and health.
But if we all breath naturally without having to think about it, why is breathwork important?
In this article I’ll be looking at the benefits of Breathwork and some useful exercises which will improve your health and vitality.
Oxygen: Our life force
Undoubtedly, the most important component to human health and vitality is oxygen. Life would not be possible without it.
Oxygen produces ATP (adrenosinetriphosphate) and without ATP, our bodies would immediately shut down. When a person breathes, there is an exact exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen. The oxygen, which is taken by the body from the surrounding atmosphere, is picked up by the hemoglobin in the blood and distributed to all the body’s trillions of cells, where it is then used to fuel the cells and release energy (ATP).
It’s clear then that optimal oxygenation of your cells through proper nutrition, fluid intake, exercise, and stress management is absolutely necessary in order to maintain your health and create vital life.
‘Improper breathing is a common cause of ill health. If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip. It would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly. There is no single more powerful – or more simple- daily practice to further your health and wellbeing than breathwork.’Andrew Weil, M.D.
So many of us don’t breathe correctly. We take short shallow breaths, mainly using the upper part of the chest rather than breathing deeply into the bottom of our lungs.
How we live is partly to blame. Long periods of sitting, less exercise, living in cities and busy, stressful environments all affect it. We tend to hold our breath and tense up when stressed, working, and even when scrolling on our phones.
Posture can also affect our breathing. Sitting all day at a desk with rounded shoulders and a forward head posture causes the muscles around the chest to tighten.
Just notice for a moment; as you are reading this, are you relaxed, or are you a little tense and holding your breath?
Don’t worry. You are not alone!
The first step to changing this is to become conscious of your breathing. Bringing an awareness to your breath will begin the process.
Here are two simple techniques you can try right now. Start with 5 minutes and then gradually increase as you become more comfortable with them.
This is done lying on the ground on your back, letting all of your limbs relax.
Exhale completely and then slowly draw in your breath through the nose. As you inhale, feel how your lungs and abdomen fill up. As you exhale through the mouth, contract your throat to make a slight hissing sound and completely exhale and empty your lungs.
Let your breath be long and slow. Repeat.
This is done while sitting, which is easy to do at your desk, or on public transport.
Exhale with a deep sigh in order to reset your diaphragm. Then breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of 7, hold your breath for a count of 7. Then, for another count of 7, exhale through your nose. Repeat three times.
This one is great if you are feeling anxious or stressed as it will immediately help you feel calm.
The benefits of breathwork
Ideally, you want to aim to do a breathing exercise every morning or evening for 20-25 minutes. These techniques not only bring more oxygen into our cells, they also help the lungs to expel toxins from the body.
Here are just a few of the benefits:
- Increases lung capacity and improves breathing efficiency
- Improves circulation, normalizes blood pressure and improves cardiovascular efficiency
- Boosts immune system
- Increases energy levels
- Strengthens and tones the nervous system
- Improves sleep
- Improves digestion
Other ways of increasing your intake of oxygen
If you live in the city or spend a lot of time indoors, then get out into nature as much as you can. When we’re outdoors, moving, walking, or running, we breathe more deeply, drawing more air deep into the bottom of our lungs. Breathing in the clean air will also be beneficial.
Fill your house with houseplants! If you have seen any of my Instagram posts, you will know I am a fan of plants. They not only increase the oxygen in your home, they can also purify air. Being around plants has a positive effect on our mental health – plus they look good.
I would love to know how you get on with these exercises – and if you need further support in improving your health and well-being then please get in touch.