To mark National Complementary Therapy Week, yoga, meditation, and breathwork instructor Sarah Loker our guest contributor, reminds us all about the power of our breath.
Are you tuning into your breathing?
So much research is underway on the importance of how breathing affects our brains. My Mind News recently reported on the link between breathing and brain function.
In a single day, we all take approximately 22,000 breaths. But how many of those breaths do we tune in to and notice?
It is easy to take our breath for granted – it is an automatic action our body does for us. But breathing is much more than simply something we do to stay alive.
When utilized fully, it can have a profound impact on us, and recent research continues to shine a light on the power of our breath and its effects on our health and wellbeing in a variety of ways.
The history of Breathwork
Moderating our breath is not new. In ancient healing traditions such as yoga, manipulating and controlling the breath, known as Pranayama, is at the core of the practice.
Pranayama – restraint (yama) of the breath (prana) – involves manipulating and controlling the breath in various ways. For example, the breath can be held in check, sustained, emptied, or elevated. These techniques have subtle yet powerful effects on circulatory systems, neurological activity, and cerebral function.
Even though breathwork has existed for thousands of years, it is incredibly relevant to modern times. Our breath is a genuinely accessible tool for self-care – perhaps THE most accessible. It is also completely free and available to just about everyone.
Learning simple techniques for moderating our breathing transforms the breath from an automatic action we are not aware of to a profoundly powerful tool for impacting our health.
This tool can be fallen back on every single day to help manage and support a variety of modern-day health concerns, such as anxiety, depression, chronic stress, sleep issues, and more.
Breathwork exercise that WILL help you
Here are three simple breathwork exercises and practices that anyone can do to support their health and wellbeing on a daily basis:
1. Breath awareness
The first technique is the simplest – it involves focusing wholly on each inhale and exhale and observing how breathing affects you physically and mentally. Focusing on the breath helps to slow down racing thoughts and ease stress and anxiety.
When we focus intently on each inhale and exhale, we connect with the present moment. Breath awareness is a powerful tool used in meditation to focus the mind. This intentional breathing makes us feel more grounded and connected to our bodies.
2. Elongate the exhale
One way to get into a relaxed state is by elongating your exhale. This technique is helpful because inhalation stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which activates our fight/flight mode.
Exhalation also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms us down and tells us we are safe. When breathing in, we are more sensitive to the outside world so we can better prepare for any imminent threat.
When under pressure and stressed, we often inhale longer than we exhale. On the other hand, the brain tunes out more when we breathe out. So, by increasing the length of our out-breath, we can slow heart rate and blood pressure and promote muscle relaxation.
3. Box breathing
Also known as equal-ratio breath, or Sama Vritti Pranayama in yoga, this breath technique involves an inhalation, exhalation, and breath retention/hold between equal lengths.
An example is inhaling for a count of 4, holding breath for a count of 4, exhaling for a count of 4, and holding breath for a count of 4.
Box breathing is excellent for calming and balancing the mind and body to reduce stress and worry. This breath technique can help manage depression by regulating respiratory, hormonal, and neurological activity.
Try out these simple breath techniques the next time you feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or need time to reconnect with yourself.
Thank you, Sarah
We thank Sarah Loker for all her valuable insight on the importance of breathwork and how it helps us with our emotional and physical wellbeing.
Sarah, who is based in Cambridgeshire, can be contacted via the website and is available for one-to-one sessions.
My Mind News would like to understand if you have found breathwork helpful and would recommend it. Let us know about your experiences in the comments.