Are you aware of your breath? Are you breathing properly? It is so funny how the value of an action increases when something as natural as breathing is dissected and consciously thought about. Our hearts beat, our blood flows and the breath moves in and out of our lungs without any conscious effort on our part. However, many of us aren’t even breathing properly, thus are unable to receive the benefits that a simple conscious breath has to offer.
Why You Need To Breathe Properly
Most people take an average of 15 breaths in one minute. This quick way of breathing gets the job done, but it doesn’t give you the long-term benefits of deep breathing. Our lungs are lined with thousands and thousands of tiny sacs called alveoli (1). These sacs store blood, oxygen, and bacteria (some good and some bad). When we take shallow breaths, we only open up around 500-700 of these sacs, which leaves thousands and thousands locked up with old oxygen, blood, and bacteria. When you slow your breath down to reach 6 to 7 breaths a minute, you now open up all the little sacs. This allows the old blood, oxygen and bacteria to leave and allows new fresh blood, oxygen and bacteria to enter. Breathing deeply can ward off sickness, decrease blood pressure, calm the body and mind and increase a sense of well-being.
How To Breathe Properly
To make sure you are getting a full breath inside your lungs, sit up straight, so there is no arch in the back and the neck is long. Relax your jaw so the teeth are parted and the tongue rests on the roof of your mouth. Take a deep breath in through your nose, let the air run down the back of your throat, past your chest and bring it all the way down to the deepest part of your lungs. This will make your belly inflate like a balloon. Pause for a moment, and then exhale through the nose, taking all the air out of the lungs, almost to the point of gasping. This will make your belly deflate like an empty balloon. Try to lengthen each breath to the count of 5 or 6 to make sure you are slowing it down enough. When you slow your breath down like this, you are going to receive all the benefits deep breathing has to offer.
When life seems overwhelming, and you feel yourself thrown into a fit of anxiety or anger, you can depend on your breath to pull you through. I like to use the type of breathing that requires a deep inhale like I mentioned above, but an even deeper exhale to the count of 6 or 7. This will give you the sense of letting go and will increase the speed in which you relax. You can also use this breath practice at night if you are having trouble sleeping, Or on the freeway when you are about to road rage.
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In yoga, we practice a type of breathing called Ujayii. It consists of the deep breaths mentioned earlier but by also adding a slight constriction in the back of your throat, so that you can feel and hear the breath. This type of breath sounds like waves coming in and out of the body. It has an amazing ability to capture your mind’s attention, so instead of running through your to-do list or how angry you are at your boss, you simply hear and focus on the sound of your own breath. Here is a quick video on how to breathe like this (3):
Next time you find your temper rising or that life is just too much to bear, integrate what you learned in this article. Relaxing into life is just a deep breath away. Begin consciously breathing today and you will start to watch your stress melt away.