Updated: Aug 1
What would you say if I told you that you already possess a powerful tool that is, without a doubt, among the most effective antidotes to stress, and that can improve your cardiovascular health, completely shift your mood and flood your body with chemicals that make you feel completely alive. It doesn't cost a cent, and can be utilised any time, anywhere. This tool is so simple and pure that it is often overlooked.
Let's discuss the power of breath for your body, mind and spirit.
Watching a newborn breathe is quite incredible. Their natural breath is deep, diaphragmatic breathing, using the diaphragm to pull air into their lungs. You can see their belly expand and chest rise, and then the belly contracts as they exhale. For most adults, this breathing is no longer natural. We have slowly become shallow, or thoracic breathers. We inhale through the mouth, hold, and take in minimal air. This subconscious change takes place over time and is often more dramatic in women.
Holding in the belly makes diaphragmatic breathing difficult, forcing shallow thoracic breathes. Shallow breathing is a signal that tells your body that you are in a state of stress. This then activates the sympathetic nervous system to prepare us to respond to whatever threat it assumes we are facing. The danger here is that prolonged reaction makes stress habitual for the body, and therefore the mind, locking us into a permanent "flight or flight" mode.
When in this state, many of our natural body processes are hindered; such as digestion and immunity. Yes, the way you breathe can directly affect both how your body processes and stores energy as well as how many white blood cells (immune cells) you produce to help you fight off illness and infection.
Prolonged shallow breathing can also cause tension in the neck and shoulders, resulting in neck pain, headaches, poor posture, shoulder slumps and increased risk of injury.
On the other hand, diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, decrease stress and improve energy levels. Science also shows a direct link between nasal breathing and cognitive function.
To re-learn this type of breathing, lay on your back. Place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Take a big deep breath and push out your belly as far as you can. The hand on your tummy should move whilst the one on your chest stays still. When you exhale you should feel the stomach pull back in and the hand on your chest remains still.
So, let's think about tight clothing too!
Next time you squeeze into clothes that restrict your breathing, check in and ask, is looking that little bit thinner in your outfit-du-jour really worth the stress and strain it is causing you? Instead, relax your belly, breathe deep and feel the benefit. Consider giving yourself room to breath by saying see ya later to restrictive bras too!
High Vibes with Deep Breaths