Wish you could melt away stress? Fall asleep quicker and sleep better? Lift heavier and more confidently? Lower your blood pressure? Improve your posture?…what if I told you all of this could be achieved through efficient breathing?
Yes, breathing. By being mindful of the way you breathe, our bodies are capable of tackling challenging tasks and even producing healing-type benefits.
We breathe all day, every day. But take note of how you are breathing.
Do you notice your chest moving up and down? Are they quick and shallow? Is it through your mouth or your nose?
To reap the benefits of breathing, and going back to how we breathe when we were infants, is with diaphragmatic breathing. You may have heard of belly breathing or pranayama in yoga- same thing.
Diaphragmatic breathing is very simple (it can be tricky, but simple) and will help you:
—Reduce stress: when you feel yourself start to get overwhelmed, belly breathing to the rescue! Find a quiet spot and take a few belly breaths before deciding on how to move forward .
—Get better sleep: sometimes your mind starts racing and you think about all the things you need to get done tomorrow or things that happened during the day, turn it off with some deep breaths. Off with the screens and on with some soothing music while you belly breathe your way to dreamland.
—Improve your posture: chest breathing leads to a wound up neck and shoulders. Allow your shoulders to fall away from your ears and find a more relaxed, yet taller posture with belly breathing.
—Get a better workout: by breathing more efficiently, you won’t get so gassed during workouts. Also, you’ll be able to brace your core to complete exercises more smoothly and safely.
—FEEL BETTER: with poor breathing patterns your body isn’t receiving oxygen as effectively as it could be. This means that nutrients and waste aren’t being transported like they should be, leaving you feeling less than stellar.
Ready to start your diaphragmatic breathing practice?!
1) Sit upright in a chair with a back or lay face up on the floor.
2) Place one hand a couple of inches above your belly button and one hand on your chest. These are here to feel for movement in the diaphragm and to check that there isn’t too much chest movement.
3) Inhale slowly and smoothly through your nose like you are smelling something heavenly.
4) Feel for the hand on your abdomen to rise as you fill the diaphragm with your breath. Take the breath in until you cannot expand anymore and/or the breath gets too forced, we don’t want that.
5) SLOWLY exhale through your mouth like you are blowing out of a small straw. Trying to match the length of the inhale.
6) Feel the hand on your abdomen to drop as the breath empties from your diaphragm. The hand on your chest is looking for as little movement as possible until the end of the breath.
7) Repeat for 5 full breaths. We’re looking for smooth, easy and even breaths.
Once you are able to feel your stomach rise and fall naturally with the breaths, take your breaths without your hands. I find it more beneficial to close my eyes while I practice my belly breaths.
I encourage practicing diaphragmatic breathing everyday, at least once a day, to start to build up your breath awareness and allow you to get the benefits of this wonderful breathing technique you can take with you everywhere! It’s tricky to relearn a habit that we have been doing for YEARS. Be patient with yourself and do your best not to force the breaths into your stomach.
Belly breathing is my go-to when the days get challenging, during my workouts, and as I’m falling asleep at night. Breathe your way to a better, more relaxed and easy going you.
#funfact : Until the year 2000, Disney theme park employees weren’t allowed to grow facial hair.