How often do we think about breathing?? Breathing is something we do subconsciously and most of the time, only using a fraction of our lungs capacity.
Starting yoga 6 years ago has massively benefited my life, especially my lungs (asthma). I learnt to use my lungs more effectively, to breathe deeply rather than short, shallow breaths. Focusing on something as simple as the breath has allowed me to create spaces in between all the millions of things to do, or thoughts constantly buzzing around in my mind. Freeing myself from the suffocation of anxiety, stress and the feeling of being scattered!
Take a deep breath in. Did you feel as if you were sucking in the air as fast as possible to expand the chest? If yes, just notice how that felt ... forceful? ...energy consuming? ...hard on the lungs?
Now look at your natural breath.
Observe the lungs expanding first, the air flows in (not the other way round-air being pulled in to expand our chest) and as you exhale the lungs relax, the air flows out.
Now try consciously expanding the space in the stomach, notice the air to flow in. Let go, the lungs relax to allow the air to flow out.
Here are some other mindful breathing exercises to try.
Breathing Exercise 1
Watch the breath. Simply focus on the rise and fall of the chest. Then start to notice, on the inhale the lungs inflate and on the exhale, the lungs relax. Tune into the inhale; cool sensations at the nose, throat and the expansion of the lungs. The exhale; watch as the lungs relax, warm exits through throat and the nose. Mindfully observe the breath
Breathing Exercise 2
Lie on your back, placing one hand on the stomach and other on the chest/just under the rib cage. Start to consciously lengthen each inhale and exhale. Notice as you inhale the stomach rises and then the chest. Connect to yogic breathing (3 part breath) - Filling up the three chamber of the lungs; beginning with lower lungs (abdominals), then the chest, all the way up to collar bones.
Please click here for audio versions of mindful breathing exercises on Soundcloud.
Benefits to deep and mindful breathing:
Mental focus and anxiety relief – Just simply watching the breath can help remove ourselves from our busy mind-set and refocus our mental space. Oxygenation of the brain reduces excessive anxiety levels.
Relaxation – Muscles relax when we are breathing properly. We will be using the breath as a tool to help us relax during yoga.
Oxygen delivery improves – the slower the breath, the longer the body/cells have time to absorb the oxygen. Also increasing mental concentration and physical stamina.
Endorphins released – improves the feeling of well-being and provides pain relief
Improves posture – When we breathe properly, we fill up our lungs sitting up taller, lengthening our spine.
Calms the nervous system
Deep and mindful breathing can be practiced daily and anywhere. Try practicing mindful breathing on the way to work or start your day with 5/10 mins. Note how it changes your day!