We show you how to get back on track with your breathing and reap all the benefits this brings.
It may sound strange, but many of us have fallen into bad breathing habits. Life is busy. Breathing deeply isn’t something you usually add to your to-do list, and if it is then it’s probably the first thing to get postponed. In a culture where everyone wants a flatter stomach, we’ve grown used to holding our abdominal muscles tight. Anxiety and stress have a part to play for sure, but we’ve also lost touch with the big extension that comes from taking deep belly breaths. For many of us, shallow “chest breathing” starts to seem normal, and in turn this increases tension.
Why are good breathing habits important?
To boost wellbeing: Deep, abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange which boosts our physical and mental wellbeing as we oxygenate the cells in our bodies.
To detox: A breathtaking 70% of the toxins inside your body are removed through the lungs, so when our breathing is shallow we reduce the effectiveness of this detoxifying effect.
To counter stress: Breathing exercises in yoga and meditation are an effective therapeutic intervention proven to counteract the adverse clinical effects of stress, hypertension, anxiety, insomnia, and ageing.
To support our body's systems: Slow breathing has been shown to support the function of our respiratory, cardiovascular, cardiorespiratory and autonomic nervous systems, and may even help to counteract disease states.
3 ways we’re cleaning up our breathing habits
Notice your breathing: At first, don’t alter it or try to improve. Just pay attention to where the breath is originating and how deep it is (or how long the breaths are). From here we can start to build a habit of taking longer deeper breaths.
Focus on the lower belly: Good breathing originates in the lower belly. It should be slow, long and quiet (i.e. you shouldn’t be able to hear the breathing). To move in this direction simply rest your awareness into the lower belly with an intention to improve the breaths and as you do this let the breathing happen naturally.
Don't force it: Habits take time to build, don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself falling back into shallow breaths. Simply return to this gentle approach and it’s more likely to create a lasting change.
Helpful tools we use to remind ourselves to breathe:
The Elephant App: This app allows you to create reminders for habits you want to break or start. It uses a simple but effective remind, repeat, reward method and works with smart watches if you have one. When you’re reminded to breathe simply start noticing your breath and bring your awareness to the lower belly.
Calendar Reminders: If you’re not a fan of apps, set a repeat event in your calendar that alerts you at the time of your breathing “event”. We like this approach because it also means you see the event in your calendar when you are planning each day. Plus you can put your own spin on it by calling the event something cringe-worthy like “be breath taking” or “take my breath away” or … ok, ok we’ll stop.