Our life force is quite literally in our breath. Each breath we take in delivers life-giving oxygen to our lungs, which gets distributed throughout our bodies via our bloodstream. Learning how to breathe properly can make a huge difference in your health.
If you tend to take shallow, unconscious breaths and you’ve never really given your breathing much thought, you would definitely benefit from learning how to breathe correctly. And if you’re already into breathing, it’s always a good idea to refresh your practice and make sure you’re giving it the attention it deserves.
Why Learning to Breathe Properly Matters
A deoxygenated body isn’t a very efficient one. Your cells need a certain amount of oxygen in order to carry out their processes. When they’re starved for oxygen, they’ll do their work sluggishly and inefficiently.
Your brain will especially suffer. You might not have the clear mind that you wish you did. Memory issues, foggy feeling brain, and lack of quickness can all be indications of less oxygenation than your brain really requires.
Your posture and internal organs will benefit from proper breathing, as well. When you fully inhale, your lungs expand to their full capacity, your diaphragm pushes down on your internal organs below it, and your shoulders expand to their proper place. This type of breathing stretches open your trunk in ways that benefit your muscles, bones, and organs.
More Benefits of Proper Breathing
Learning to breathe through your nose means that the air you breathe in will be properly filtered and warmed to the right temperature for your lungs. Many people unconsciously breathe through their mouths, which dries out the throat, doesn’t properly filter the air, and sometimes can bring in too cold or too hot air to the lungs. Mouth breathing can also lead to snoring and sleep apnea, as well as dental issues.
Breathing properly can help you with anxiety, as well. Deep breathing calms the nervous system, triggering hormones that relax the mind and body. Shallow, short breaths are associated with panic and anxious episodes. By learning to deep breathe slowly and properly, you’ll have better control over anxiety and be able to create more calm.
How to Get Started
There are many different techniques that can help you learn to breathe properly. Traditional cultures all over the world have various techniques you can learn. Many of these traditions are paired with mindfulness practices, which give them an extra boost in creating well-being.
Here are a few breathing techniques to try as you find the right practice to help you better oxygenate your body and relax your mind.
Create specific moments throughout your day when you are reminded to check in with your breath. Some people pay attention to their breathing every time they get a drink of water, go to pick up their phone, see a particular number on the clock, or some other kind of regular reminder. Pick something that works for you, then every time you see the thing or do the activity, check in with your breath. Notice whether your chest or your belly is rising. Then close your eyes and take several slow, deep breaths through your nose and into your belly.
Mindfulness and Breathing
One really great practice to do every single day is to create a mindfulness routine. It’s easy to add in breathing when you’re consciously sitting and focusing on holding space in a mindful way. You can even focus on your breathing as a way to keep your mind empty and quiet. Deep breaths will help calm your brain and relax your body so mindfulness will be an even easier practice.
Proper Breathing Practice
When you’re just getting started on working on your breathing, it can be good to consciously practice breathing. Sit or lie down comfortably and put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Breathe normally and notice which hand is rising. Breathe through your nose and notice how that feels. Try to make the hand over your belly rise higher than your chest. Practice proper breathing daily until it becomes easier and more like second nature.
The 4-7-8 Breath Exercise
This type of breathing pattern comes from Dr. Andrew Weil and deeply oxygenates and relaxes the body. Sit comfortably upright with your mouth relaxed and slightly open. Breathe deeply through your nose for a count of four. Then hold your breath for a count of seven. Finally, gently release the air out of your mouth for a count of eight. Cycle this breathing about four times and practice twice per day. Eventually, you’ll be able to extend the time and develop more lung capacity.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
This breathing exercise comes from Ayurveda, which is an ancient healing practice from India. Comfortably sit upright with a relaxed but proper posture. Take one hand and put the first finger and thumb up to the nostrils as if to pinch your nose. Close the right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril. Hold the breath momentarily, then pinch off the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Switch sides and repeat for 5 full cycles.
Breathe Properly For Life
While it’s common in our modern world to take our breathing for granted and unconsciously inhale and exhale, breathing properly has many benefits that shouldn’t be ignored. When you’re on a wellness path, it’s important to consider all the various ways that your body needs nourishment.
Since our breath is considered our life force (“prana” and “chi” in other cultures), it’s crucial we pay more attention to how we breathe. Try out these exercises and modify them to fit your life. Pretty soon you’ll start noticing a clearer mind, calmer energy, and invigorated body. Breathing correctly is for life.
If you’d like to help others with better breathing and overall wellness, you would enjoy being a Health and Wellness Coach. The IAWP offers a unique, accredited training and certification program. We focus on offering powerful systems and support to make sure you’re successful as a coach for life. Reach out to an admissions advisor today to discuss how to get started with the IAWP!