Breathing. We all do it, most of us without a second thought as to how… but did you know that there are certain techniques and methods of breathing that can alter your body physically and mentally? As well as being vital to LIVE, breathing can have a HUGE impact on our physical and emotional bodies.

My interest in breath work came from my own personal experience. When I started Pilates I was a shallow breather (still am sometimes). I would get anxious, panicky and I hated yoga, meditation or anything that made me focus on breathing because, well, I wasn’t good at it. We breathe all day every day and little did I know I was doing a terrible job of it.

From Pilates, a wise mentor and my own research and practice of certain breathing techniques I have been able to improve my scoliosis, regulate my emotions, assist my movements while exercising and reduce my gasping for air that one Dr decided to diagnose as ‘air hunger’ when I was 10 (- seriously?!) Now I LOVE yoga, breathing techniques and have started meditating (something I could never have done before).

The following are benefits you may not have known come from good breathing patterns:

  • Calm anxiety and reduce stress
  • Modulate sensations – take pain for example; pain is a response in your brain and breathing can help with controlling that response
  • Facilitate movement – particularly in the spine. This is where we work in Pilates. Rigidity in your ribcage and thoracic spine can predispose you to injuries in your neck and lower back!
  • Encourage good lymphatic drainage
  • Facilitate mind/body connection

Here are 4 of my favourite breathing techniques, why they are good for you and how to do them:

1. Diaphragmatic breathing    

This baby is your best friend for general breathing during the day, enhancing your lymphatic drainage and keeping a healthy diaphragm, ribcage, and thoracic spine.

  • Take a steady breath and send it deep into your belly. Feel a gentle rise/pushing out of your tummy that gently falls on the exhale. Your ribs should also stretch gently. We have a video of this breath technique available on our Online Community.

     2. Posto – lateral breathing

A fancy name for breathing into the sides and back of the ribcage. Why? Try taking a deep breath into your tummy whilst tensing your core muscles like your doing an ab exercise – not fun! This technique is what we teach in Pilates a lot and it’s the go-to breathing technique while you exercise as it allows you to keep a good engagement of your core whilst still breathing a full breath.
  •  Place your hands on the sides and backs of your ribcage (while learning). Now take a steady breath in and try to fill the sides and backs of your ribs with the air. It can help to tense your core muscles while learning this technique.
     3. In for 4, hold for 5, out for 6
My go-to breath for a quick calm down! As a western society we tend to over talk and over breathe. Breathing too much or too quickly overloads on O2 which can lead to feeling panicky, light headed etc. We actually need the rise of CO2 in our blood to signal a healthy breath and vasodilation (the ability of that oxygenated blood to reach the extremities and brain).
  • You’re pretty much doing exactly what I’ve called it. Your counts may be quicker than a full second so go with a comfortable pace for you. The important thing is that your exhale is longer than your inhale as this helps to calm you down and ease anxiety by balancing your CO2 and O2 levels.

4. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing)

This is a yoga breath technique and I LOVE it! I use Easy Air essential oil from doTERRA on my hands while I do it to help open the airways and connect with the heart chakra. This breathing technique is for enhancing mind/body connection, increasing focus, calming the mind and body as well as connecting the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
  • There are a few different hand positions that are used but for the sake of keeping things simple you can just use your index fingers, one on each nostril. Block your left nostril and EXHALE through your right, then inhale through your right and block that nostril. Now EXHALE through your left and inhale through your left, then block it again. Keep repeating! We have a video of this breath technique on our Online Community.

If you would like to learn more about your personal breathing style and how it can be changed to positively affect your mind and body then you can contact us to schedule an appointment for a breath assessment with our wonderful physio Tessa who specialises in this area.

Keep breathing (consciously!) my wonderful friends xx

 

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