How to master the art of breathing

Breathing is good for you! > A statement of the obvious, and yet wellbeing gurus would have us believe that it is a science. And they are correct that controlled breathing techniques can help regulate mental wellbeing. For example, using self-hypnosis you can calm yourself down during a panic attack.

But is breathing therapy a science in its own right? From yoga practitioners to Shaolin monks, the message goes out that controlled breathing has many benefits.

While there are many different breathing exercises, the most basic change to breathing is called diaphragmatic breathing. Think of this as breathing from your belly. When you do this you will experience how your chest and ribcage expand. After a few such breaths, hopefully you will start to notice a calming of your body.

But there are many more stress relief benefits that breathing exercises can offer. Consider when you are feeling anxious, how your body tenses up even if there is no threat. Slow, deep breaths will quickly relax your muscles and your whole body will loosen up.

Then there is blood pressure. Anxiety is the catalyst for short, shallow breathing which can result in hypertension. Deep, slow breaths will both regulate your heart rate and improve your blood flow. This helps lower your blood pressure.

Healing through breathing

“The bottom line is that taking deep and slow breaths when anxious will help your muscles relax and your body to calm down,” says a Tonic expert. “In addition, controlled breathing exercises can improve the cardiovascular system. When you are taking deep breaths, your lungs will expand and contract, which will then massage your heart as you breathe. When you take deep breaths or practice breathing exercises, your lungs provide you with more oxygen to the blood, which will then get sent to our heart.

“This means that your heart will not need to work so hard to pump blood around your body. This can help to improve your circulation and eases the pressure needed by your heart”.

All very medical and yet you can get the same anxiety busting therapy simply by phoning Tonic!  And yet breathing therapy has more to offer than simply being a stress reliever. Here is just a few benefits which will take your breath away …

  • Eases pain. This is because deep and slow breathing releases endorphins into your body (these are painkiller hormones). This is important because your natural instinct is to hold your breath when in pain. Breathing instead INTO the pain can help to ease it.
  • Boosts digestion. This is because deep breathing helps to ensure that more oxygen reaches your digestive system. It is claimed this improves the rate and comfort of digestion. This results in fewer stomach aches, a reduction in bloating and less trapped wind.

Inhale the future, exhale the past

  • Better posture. Poor posture often results from breathing in the wrong way. When you take in short, shallow breaths, you tend to hunch over and your shoulders become rounded. In contrast, when you start to breathe deeply and from your diaphragm, you will notice that your spine lengthens and straightens.
  • Boosts energy. Many proponents of deep breathing say that the increased oxygen can lead to a tangible difference in energy levels, helping to improve mood and motivation as well as increasing mental alertness.
  • Ensures a good night’s sleep. Breathing in the right way helps you to get into the right frame of mind for sleeping, helping you to fall asleep more quickly. Focusing on breathing exercises can also help you slow your mind and stop racing thoughts. If you count while you inhale and exhale, distractions will fall away and you will gradually drift off to sleep.

Breathe, it’s just a bad day, not a bad life

  • Releases negative emotions. Sheetali Pranayama is a DIY breathing technique* designed to let out built-up rage, rebalancing your emotions and clearing your head.
  • Catalyst for meditation. Breathing exercises can lead to a desire to meditate. In fact, some beginner’s level mindfulness exercises focus entirely on deep breathing.  Those who regularly meditate are better at putting difficulties into perspective, and report a greater sense of peace and self-acceptance.
  • Slows down ageing. If you think about how you behave when you are stressed or angry, you are most likely frowning. Wrinkles in the making! You could always phone Tonic’s specialist forever young service, but deep breathing therapy also helps. It will slow down the ageing process by reducing the amount of time you spend making these tense facial expressions. Your breathing can also slow down ageing by increasing the release of anti-aging hormones.

Footnote > * Also known as Cooling Breath, all you need to do is get into a comfortable position in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Then relax your face. Notice if your teeth are clenched – allow your jaw to drop, and curl your tongue in on itself to help the muscles relax. Next, inhale a deep breath to count of five, breathing in through your mouth from the bottom of your ribcage. Hold your breath for a couple of seconds, then exhale through your nose to a count of seven. Repeat as needed.

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