Breathing. Something every one of us does. Right from the moment we are born. One of those things we do on autopilot, rarely giving it much thought.
For something so very important, a lot of people hardly ever listen to their breath, feel it, focus on just their breath. Which seems strange considering you physically cannot survive without oxygen.
Eating, sleeping and drinking are all extremely important aspects of life, but how often do you think about them in comparison to your breath? Probably a lot more.
But, did you know the human body can survive days, even weeks without food, water or sleep?
Breath, on the other hand, is a little more essential!
The human body, on average, can survive only 3 minutes without oxygen.
The importance of breathing is unarguable. Focusing and spending time bringing your thoughts back to your breath have been proven to have a hugely positive impact on your life.
Simply taking deep breaths can help many situations. Sometimes all it takes is to tune in to your breath, just observe it flowing in and out.
How breathing properly can help
Oxygen gives life to every cell in our body.
There are many things in life that can cause us not to breathe as effectively or deeply as we should.
Short shallow breathing is often related to stress. It’s our body’s natural response to external stressors. Our daily lives are filled with stressful situations: tight deadlines, busy commutes, financial obligations.
Our caffeine obsessed society also tends to put a lot of stress on our bodies: many studies link coffee to a rise in cortisol in the body.
It may not be so easy to escape from stress. But how we deal with stress, on the other hand, is entirely up to us.
Paying awareness to the breath and taking bigger, longer breaths (especially in stressful situations) has been shown to alleviate signs of stress on the body. Taking deeper breaths (bringing more oxygen into the body) can also improve sleep, aid with food digestion, and boost your immune system.
Ways to check in on your breath
When we are feeling upset or stressed, it is very common for our breath to become shallow. Noticing when this happens and just checking in on it can improve your breathing almost instantly. These simple exercises can affect you mentally and physically.
Take the time to observe the quality of your breath
Close your mouth and start to slow down the breathing, breathing only through your nose
Start to take long, deep breaths, taking time to pause at the end of the inhale and exhale
Inhale for 3 seconds, exhale for 4, hold for a moment, continue
Focus on diaphragmatic breathing: place your hands on your side and feel your diaphragm grow with an inhale and shrink with an exhale
A good way to keep track is to set certain check-in points throughout your day. For example, brushing your teeth, breakfast, getting into your car and trying to spend a few minutes just focusing on the breath.
Perhaps agree to do 10-20 inhales and exhales before you start that next task.
When you are lying in bed, that is a great time to spend on the breath, whether it's first thing in the morning, last thing at night or even a few minutes of both. Becoming more connected to the constant flow in and out can remind you to check in more frequently, especially when you are feeling low and agitated.
Committing to daily breathing exercises can do wonders for your mind, body and soul. A simple exercise that most take for granted, but one that all could not live without.
If you are interested in learning more about meditation and breathwork, our free yoga online mini course ‘Love - by BeWell’ is an introduction to yoga, mindfulness, mantra, and meditation.