5 easy ways to connect your breath
Creating a daily or regular breath practice can be simple with lasting positive benefits. Most people think finding time for breathwork is not feasible because they're too busy and know how to breathe as it is.
Here are 5 tips to create an accessible practice that can help improve stress levels, cognitive function, and overall wellness.
1. There are two types of breathing: conscious breathing, which is controlled and directed breathing ( think Pranayama, and meditation) the other is breath awareness. I recommend starting with breath awareness to begin noticing how you're breathing most of the time. How do you breathe when you wake up in the morning? –start there and throughout the day take brief moments to check in on your breathing. Is it shallow or deep? Do you feel satiated or is the air stuck in your chest? Are you breathing through your nose or mouth? These details can have a big impact on your mood, energy, and concentration. If you find that you hold your breath often, take a break from what you're doing and take a few long slow breaths and reset. You might even want to take a big yawn with full body stretch to help reset the oxygen and Co2 levels in your body.
2. Focus on breathing exclusively through your nose. Our bodies are designed for nasal breathing. If you can add this to your workouts and sleep you'll see significant improvement in your overall well being. This is for both the inhale and the exhale. Your body should be tolerant of Co2 which is what we exhale and the mouth has us breathing at a higher volume since it's bigger. If you release more carbon dioxide with your mouth regularly you'll begin to find a sense of tension when Co2 rises. This can lead to over breathing and more mouth breathing. Our nose provides the body with filtered air and it helps to release nitric oxide, all of which is beneficial for our health and immune system. Breathing with your nose also helps to arouse the diaphragm and a parasympathetic response (think relaxed part of the nervous system).
3. Six breaths per minute is the most effective way to connect to a calm state. There are two ways that are recommended to access this rate: 5 second inhale and 5 second exhale (all nasal) or inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 6 seconds (all nasal). These two cadences can calm your mind and improve your physical health. These are accessible for people with high levels of stress and for anyone looking for the fastest way to relax. Also especially helpful for sleep and in between meetings.
4. When you feel anxious, focus on long slow exhales. It's often misunderstood when panic arises to take a big breath. In reality the inhale raises your heart rate and blood flow - it's the exhale that slows the heart rate down. Especially if you're feeling that you can't take a deep breath as if it's stuck, try a long slow exhale and you can an exaggerated sigh or humming the first exhale. Long slow exhales try counting to 5 then 6 and eventually to 10 on your exhale.
5. If you have trouble finding consistency in a breathing practice and would like to add it to your routine, look into a breathing coach or a guided breathwork session. It's similar to finding a great yoga teacher or a trainer to help you grow and expand in your routine. If you're someone that struggles with stress, concentration, or sleep it might be worth looking into. There are instances where a few guided sessions with a couple tweaks and the anxiety can diminish dramatically. If you're looking to go deep in a breathing session and potentially clear emotions or open a stream consciousness having a guide is especially helpful.