We do it at least 20,000 times a day, but it seems that we still don’t get it right.
“Observe a baby breathing; they breathe fully and completely into their chest and belly. As we get older, our breathing patterns change in response to life experience, suppressed emotions and habits,” says yoga and breathing expert Kirsty Gallagher.
When we’re stressed or upset, we hold our breath and our inhalations can become shallower. And this type of breathing can become the norm.
“This triggers the ‘fight or flight’ stress response,” says Kirsty. So how do we break this cycle?
Tune into your breathing
“The best way is to start spending some time each day with your breath,” says Kirsty. Begin by simply noticing your breath. Are you breathing into your chest or belly? Is the inhale or exhale longer or shorter? Begin to consciously deepen and lengthen the breath. Don’t force anything and start slowly. Try taking the breath all the way down into the bottom of your belly, and breathe fully and deeply. You may also choose one of those breathing techniques and work on them for a few minutes every day to reset your breath.
Breathing for stress relief
When we’re stressed, our breathing quickens. The fast intake of air leads to a buildup of oxygen in the bloodstream, which puts the pH level of the blood off-kilter. This can result in anxiety, muscle twitching and irritability.
A yogic breathing technique called “dirga pranayama” focuses on slower breathing to restore our pH balance, which calms the mind and reduces stress levels.
1 Sit comfortably and focus for a few moments on the natural flow of your breath.
2 Begin to focus on your breath into your belly, feeling it fill up with each inhale and empty with each exhale.
3 Now, pay attention to your chest and lungs as you inhale. Feel your belly fill up and then take the breath all the way into the lungs.
4 Allow the exhale to leave in the same way, emptying at the lungs and then, the belly. Do this until it feels comfortable.
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