I learnt the hard way from a panic attack years ago that I, like most of us, tend to do upper-airway shallow breathing – from the tops of our lungs as opposed to from the base, the kind of breathing that feels like you’re not really breathing at all. Just think of when you’re stooping, slouching or slumped on a sofa; there’s an uncomfortable restriction on the ribs and diaphragm. “Nine out of ten people don’t breathe property”, says Amanda Denton, a Vinyassa yoga teacher practicing meditation as an uninterrupted flow of breath, awareness, and concentration. “We take breathing for granted. An average person takes something like 29,000 breaths a day – that’s a lot of air moving in and out of our bodies to keep us alive. It puts it into perspective why the quality of our breathing is so important, just like the quality of food and water we put into our bodies.”
Calmness, peace and a lower heart rate? First, check if you’re breathing properly. Lie down and put your hands on your stomach. As you breathe in your stomach should move up and down like a baby. Then decide what you want to achieve. Alertness? Relaxation? Sleep? The premise is that simply thinking and having the intention to breathe better and deeper means it will happen naturally.
Two breathing exercises I’ve been trying lately:
To wake-up and energize
Think of this as a cup of coffee. Sit crossed-legged, paying attention to pull in your abdomen. Take short, sharp and fast breaths expelling air through both nostrils. Repeat for a minute.
Inhale through both nostrils fully then bock off left nostril with your thumb and exhale through right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril then block off and exhale through the left. Repeat 20 times so you get into a good rhythm.
A few other thinks I love to remind me to breathe in deeply: