Most of us learned back in high school that breathing is something that our body does automatically, without us thinking about it, so, no need to think about it, right? Not exactly…
We absolutely need to think about our breath – not all the time, but often during the day. We have become a world of shallow breathers, and a people of disease exacerbated by these breathing patterns. Taking time for some deep breathing can help us heal.
Hurrying, being stressed, worrying, and for many of us, even driving our cars can cause our breath to become short and shallow.
Check yours right now. Just stop reading and pay attention for a minute to your breaths. Try to take a deep breath and see how that feels. Unless you just finished meditating, I’d bet that you were surprised by the shallowness of your breaths.
The deeper you breathe, the more oxygen you get into your lungs. More oxygen getting into your lungs means more oxygen getting into your blood, helping all the systems in your body work much more efficiently than they do when you’re taking shallow breaths.
Inhaling slowly and deeply sends more energy to your sympathetic nervous system, whose job is preparing your body to react to situations of stress or emergency by increasing your heart rate, constricting your blood vessels, and raising your blood pressure.
Exhaling slowly and completely gives a signal to your parasympathetic nervous system to slow heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and reduce any stress hormones that have been released.
So, how do you change the unhealthy breathing pattern to become healthier?
A few simple changes to your daily habits:
First, let’s say you begin each day with three deep, full breaths before getting out of bed. That’s a great way to start your day! You can put a note on your bedside table, or even a voice note on your phone so that when the alarm goes off, it’ll be easier to remember to breathe.
Secondly, set your watch alarm for once an hour, and when it goes off, you take one or two minutes to pay attention to your breathing – are you taking deep breaths, or quick, short breaths? Now take another three slow, deep, full breaths. Continue stopping every hour for this very important breathing break, and you will be surprised by how often you discover that your breath has become short and shallow during the day.
Lastly, end your day the same way you started with three deep and complete breaths before falling asleep. You can also try Brahmari Breath before sleep - it helps many people sleep better!
A good way to make sure those breaths are truly deep and full, at least at the beginning, is to count the seconds. Maybe start with counting slowly to 5 on your inhale, and go to 7 on your exhale. Eventually, see if you can build up to an 8 count inhale and a 16 count exhale. That may take quite a long time, but it’s a goal worth aiming for!
And, if you’d like to learn a yoga pose that specifically helps you to get more oxygen into your lungs, try my supported fish. I walk you through it in the video below, and it will make you feel great!
Best of Health