How to change your mood with a breath: How breathing deeper can improve health and posture.
Have you heard of a yogic breath? Don’t worry if you haven’t, as with time and practice this exercise will be your ‘go to’ when you need to make a shift not only in your breathing, but your state of mind and emotions as well.
The way you breathe can impact your whole body, helping to regulate important functions such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can also reinforce proper body mechanics that put less stress on your body as you move. So let’s take a closer look…
What is deep breathing?
First of all, let’s consider what deep breathing actually is. Deep breathing is also called abdominal or belly breathing. It involves inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose, causing the lungs to fill with air as the belly expands.This type of breathing is associated with many health benefits, from reducing stress to lowering blood pressure.
While these benefits are widely known, the busy pace of life plus a sedentary work environment have conditioned many of us to take only quick, shallow breaths. Over time, this weakens the strength of our respiratory muscles. It also creates tension in the upper body that can alter our posture and undermine our health.
Why should I take deep breaths?
It calms you down, reduces your stress levels and resets your emotions to give you a more balanced and relaxed mood. If you are experiencing difficult emotions, this breathing practice will serve to remind you to work with these emotions with care and consideration, like riding a wave that safely delivers you to the shore. Whenever the breathing becomes shallow and short, this breathing will allow you to shift to a deeper more complete breath habit.
How do I breathe deep?
The first step in working to breathe more deeply is to find a comfortable position; either lying down or sitting in up.
If you are just learning this practice its best to lie down so the diaphragm is relaxed and free.
- As you relax your body, place one hand on your lower abdomen just below the navel and the other hand on your low ribs just above the navel. Allow your breath to come and go smoothly and evenly. Begin to let go of any pauses or noises in the breath.
- Begin to send the force of breath to the abdomen (you’ll notice your lower hand will rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale).
- Once abdominal breathing is established, allow the breath to expand the abdomen and then the ribs (your hand resting on the low ribs will rise and fall in succession with the lower hand).
- Take several long slow deep breaths expanding your abdomen, ribs, and chest on the inhale and contracting chest, ribs and abdomen on the exhale. Allow the breath to become smoother and more refined.
Deep breathing during labour and contractions!
During labour, controlling your breathing is the most important natural pain control mechanism you have. How so? Firstly, slow, rhythmic breathing maximizes the amount of oxygen available to you and your baby – and the more oxygen you can keep supplying your body with, the better you’ll feel and the more likely your labour is to progress more smoothly.
But also, slow breathing will stop you from tensing up, which would otherwise make the pain of a contraction feel worse. The more you focus on breathing slowly and steadily, the more you can let the sensation of a contraction wash over you.
Is it really that simple?
Yes! As long as you allow yourself time to develop your breathing and pausing your daily life to reset your emotions. It’s completely scientific too – breathing from your chest relies on secondary muscles around your neck and collarbone instead of your diaphragm. When this breathing pattern is accompanied by poor posture, many muscles in your upper body aren’t able to function properly.
The longer you sit during the day, the less your body is able to fight the forces of gravity and maintain a strong, stable core. Combining deep breathing with good posture is a sure-fire way of improving your mood and giving your body the boost it needs to get through those moments of stress or anxiety.
Learning and practicing the complete yogic breath can be just the remedy for retraining the breath when we catch our breathing shifting. It can reset the nervous system, emotions and return us to a more rhythmic and supportive habit.
Importantly, every breath we take has the potential to both nourish us and cleanse us. The inhale brings in vitality and energy while oxygenating the blood. The exhale allows us to let go of toxins, tensions and anything that isn’t necessary anymore. When breathing is short and shallow, we start to feel dull, tired and uninspired – it’s time to breathe deep.
With time, practice and good instruction, the yogic breath will be your rescue device when you need to make a shift not only in your breathing but your state of mind and emotions too.
What do you notice about your own breathing and how it affects your state of mind and emotions? Look out for our next blog when we’ll be learning how breathing can affect the pelvic floor.
Who are Enliven Health?
Alexandra Chapman [BSc, MSc, MACP] set up Enliven Health with the principal ambition to help those with injury, dysfunction and pain, to rejuvenate and restore their health to maximize the best in themselves, in beautiful and relaxing surroundings. Take a look at our website to find out more about us and our services.