We know how to breathe. It’s something that occurs to us automatically, spontaneously, and naturally. We are breathing even when we are not aware of it. So it seems dumb to think that I’m writing a post about why we should practice our breathing, right? Did you happen to laugh yet?
If you did, it’s okay. I would’ve laughed at it too if I saw this 2 years ago.
To be honest, my sophomore year was one of the hardest years, physically, mentally, and emotionally, that I experienced in my college career so far. I never had a break for myself. I gained weight (because my nutritionist said I had to) and that put me in a relapse, or “pseudo-recovery”, as I like to call it. I was still running for the sake of running. I wasn’t breathing enough in dance classes so my movement always looked held and tense.
It’s been a journey, but I’m here now!
This semester I’m taking a Hatha Yoga class for an elective credit, but the pace is a little slow because not everyone in the class has had yoga experience. However, we’ve REALLY been focusing on is the ebb and flow of our breath, which in yoga terms, is called “pranayama” (prah-nah-YAH-mah). I’ve honestly been thinking a lot about how I used to breathe before I got to college and before I started practicing yoga: somewhat constricted and not full. I didn’t truly learn how to use the full capacity of my lungs until one of my modern teachers made us do a deep breathing exercise.
With our society’s way of living, we only use about a tenth of our total lung capacity, especially those who lead a very sedentary lifestyle. We are also in a hurry most of the time, so our movements and breathing follow this pattern. Increased stress makes us breathe more quickly and less deeply.
So, breathing is important for two reasons:
- It’s the only means to supply our bodies with a supply of oxygen, which is vital for our survival.
- It’s a way to get rid of waste products and toxins from the body.
In my class my professor said the ancient yogis knew how important it was to breathe correctly and developed techniques not only to increase health and life span, but also to obtain superconscious states.
So I’m gonna be your breathing coach today and talk about why it’s incredibly important to practice full and deep breaths. You’d be surprised at some of the benefits! Remember, always take deep breaths through your NOSE only! When you breath in and out through your mouth you’re basically gulping air and you’ll find that you aren’t able to take a deep enough breath.
1. Deep Breathing Releases Tension
Think how you feel when you are tense, angry, scared or stressed; a “fight or flight” response, as it’s commonly called. Constricted, right? Your muscles get tight and your breathing becomes shallow. When your breathing is shallow you are not getting the amount of oxygen that your body needs. Or if you’ve been crying for awhile you can’t catch your breath because your body is so worked up.
2. Deep Breathing Relaxes the Mind and Body
Introducing more oxygen to your brain reduces excessive anxiety levels. Pay attention to how you breathe. Breathe slowly, deeply, and purposefully into your body. As you relax your body, you may find that the breathing brings clarity to you as well. I love focusing on deep breathing when I can’t fall asleep, and then the next thing I know, it’s morning!
3. Deep Breathing Relieves Pain
You may not realize how your breath can connect to how you think, feel, and experience life. For example, what happens to your breathing when you anticipate pain? You probably hold your breath, right? If you’re in a stressful or painful situation, trying breathing into your pain and see what happens.
4. Proper Breathing Makes Your Heart Stronger
Deep breathing leads to more efficient lungs, which means more oxygen, that’s brought into contact with blood sent to the lungs by the heart. So if you’re using your full lung capacity, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to deliver oxygen to the tissues. Deep breathing also leads to a greater increase in circulation.
Now I’m not saying you to have to be taking huge breaths all the time, people might think you’re nuts! But when the appropriate situation presents itself to you, focus on your breathing.
Had a long day? Take a few minutes to close your eyes and breathe on your commute home.
Feeling worked up over a stressful situation? Close your eyes, take several deep breaths, and reassess your situation.
Need a moment for yourself? Get into a comfortable seated position, sit tall, close your eyes, and breathe.
Not sure where to begin? Take a look at these videos by trained yoga teachers from my favorite FREE yoga site! 🙂
Now tell me…
- Do you spend enough time focusing on your breath?
- Any fun weekend plans?