Do You Know How to Breathe?

Dandelion flower

“Of course I do,” you are saying to yourself. It may be an automatic response, but many of us do it improperly. Some of us breathe improperly all of the time. Some of us do it when stressed. We are a society of shallow breathers, and it’s just not serving us well.

Long Deep Breathing is the easiest breathing technique to learn. It literally changed my life when I first started taking yoga classes. I developed the practice in class, but carried it over into my daily routine. Then my yoga teacher went on vacation for the summer. My routine was disrupted. I forgot how to breathe again. After a few months, I was irritable, agitated and anxious again. All the time. When I started to make a conscious effort to breathe properly again, that went away.

Sit or lie down comfortably. Start by filling the abdominal area by inhaling and pressing the air consciously into the lower areas. This means that your lower belly should fill first, and become rounded. As you do this, you are automatically pulling your diaphragm down. As your diaphragm moves down, it pulls the bottom of your lungs down, bringing air into the bottom of your lungs.  Allow your bottom ribs to expand, and then expand the upper ribs to bring air into all of your lungs! S.L.O.W.L.Y.

Once the lungs are completely filled, hold the breath lightly for a moment, without straining. Then begin to exhale (slowly), releasing the air from your lungs first, and working down to your low belly. Make sure to pull your belly in, so that all the air is squeezed out.

Always inhale and exhale through the nose.

What will long, deep breathing do for you?

  • Promote relaxation and a feeling of calm
  • Give greater energy (by pumping spinal fluid to your brain)
  • Reduce and prevent toxic build-up in the lungs
  • Cleanse the blood
  • Stimulate endorphins, which may reduce depression
  • Help in releasing energetic blockages
  • Reduce insecurity, anxiety / fear
  • Reduce reactionary behavior

Shallow (chest-only) breathing simply does not afford you these benefits, which explains why I was a stressed out mess when I stopped doing this. I still catch myself taking shallow breaths during times of stress, but now I know how to change it, and my mood and thought patterns also change. It’s all about self-care.  Although, the people in your life will thank you, too.

Now, you’re not going to go about your entire day breathing long and deep like this. You can do this for 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 11 minutes…however long it takes you to feel a relaxation response. You can do it once a day, three times a day…whatever works for you.

Utilizing the technique long breathing, but at a “regular” pace, is what proper breathing is all about. That’s mood-lifting, chill-out worthy, life changing stuff, all on its own. But now, you also have a way to bump up your wellness during times of stress.