There is one small change that can have a huge impact on your health and stress levels, and that’s learning how to breathe properly.
Most of us breathe right up into our chest. ‘Chest-breathers’ tend to bypass the diaphragm and breathe quite forcefully high up into the upper chest. I know, I used to be one of them!
And guess what? I was also stressed, strung-out and overly-sensitive. It took a combination of things to bring me to a space of true health but, by far, one of the major changes I made was learning how to breathe correctly.
It’s true; there is a time for chest breathing. Stress, and the rapid breathing that goes with it, is helpful when you are in a dangerous situation, defending yourself or reacting with urgency.
The problem, however, is that most of us are chest breathers for the majority of the day. This basically means we are engaging our sympathetic nervous system, and putting ourselves in fight or flight mode, when we don’t need to be. Naturally, placing this extra stress on our body ultimately has a knock-on effect on our health.
Learning how to breathe properly allows us to consciously slow down. This in turn switches us into parasympathetic mode. Also known as our rest and restore state. Keeping a stable, even breath throughout the day, despite any stressful situations that may come our way, can be a real game-changer.
One of the simplest breathing techniques you can learn is called the Yogic Breath or diaphragm breathing. Here’s how to do it:
- In a seated position, or while laying down, rest your hands on your belly.
- Take a deep inhale through your nose and open your mouth to exhale.
- On your next inhale begin by gently breathing into your belly. Feel your diaphragm rise.
- Next, take that same breath into your rib cage. Feel your rib cage expand out to the side.
- Finally, breathe into your chest.
- Then, as you exhale reverse the breath. Breathe out from your belly. Soften your belly back towards your spine. Release the breath from the rib cage and finally completely exhale from the chest.
Practice 20 rounds of this breath for the most incredible way to start your day. You can enjoy the Yogic Breath before you’ve even gotten out of bed! You’ll feel clearer, calmer and more grounded. And, in times of stress throughout your day, this breath technique can also be your saving grace.