“Of course I do,” you are saying to yourself.It may be an automatic response, breathing, 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.
Below is a simply technique for long deep breathing that I often teach my students and clients. I teach it not only for the relaxation and health benefits it provides, but also because it is a great demonstration of everyday, proper breathing methodology, when used at a ‘normal’ pace.
Long Deep Breathing
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 my weekly yoga classes, and 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 breath properly again, that went away.
Sit cross-legged, with a straight spine (or lie down / shavasana, if you like). With long, deep breathing you will first (slowly) fill the abdominal area by inhaling the air down, and pressing the air consciously into the lower areas. This means that your lower belly should fill first. It should protrude. As you do this, you are automatically pulling your diaphragm down. As your diaphragm moves down, it pulls the bottom of your lungs down, thereby pulling air into the bottom of your lungs, just as a bellows would work. Allow your bottom ribs to expand, and then expand the upper ribs to bring air into all of your lungs! Let your lungs fill with air. S.L.O.W.L.Y.
Once the lungs are completely filled,, hold the breath lightly for a moment and press the shoulders back and expand the chest out so that the full length and pressure on the diaphragm can be felt.
Then begin to exhale (slowly), releasing the air from your lungs first, and working down to your low belly. Contract the entire length of the diaphragm from the upper chest to the abdomen, making 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? Here are just some of the benefits:
- Promote relaxation and a feeling of calm
- Give greater energy (by pumping spinal fluid to your brain)
- Reduce and prevent toxic build-up by clearing the lungs
- Cleanse the blood
- Stimulate endorphins, which may reduce depression
- Aid in releasing energetic blockages
- Reduce insecurity, anxiety / fear
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 response of relaxation. You can do it once a day, three times a day…whatever works for you.
Here’s the take-away for all day, every day living: Utilizing the technique of inhaling so that you fill your low belly first, and working your way up to the lungs, and exhale in the opposite formation, 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 it up during times of stress.