Breathing is the link between our inner and outer experiences: we take breath from the outside world into the body with every inhalation it is also the link between the physical and emotional reactions we have to those experiences. That means what is happening with our bodies and minds is channelled through our breathing but … the way we breathe can also change what is happening within our bodies and minds.
There are two types of breathing patterns, which are related to the area of the body where breathing occurs. There is thoracic breathing that refers to the thorax – the area of the chest encased by the ribs – and abdominal breathing that refers to the area below the diaphragm or around the navel.
When we want to calm down, get relaxed or are at rest, abdominal breathing is generally considered as healthiest. It relies upon the contraction and relaxation of the muscle beneath the lungs called diaphragm. Abdominal breathing is more efficient than thoracic breathing as it is slower, deeper and more calming to the body and mind.
When our bodies need more oxygen, our body may involuntarily supplement abdominal breathing with thoracic breathing and air is pulled into the upper part of the lungs. Thoracic breathing is shallower and faster than abdominal breathing, and often includes active or forced exhalation.
Exercise 1 Abdominal Breathing
Lie down on a bed or yoga mat on the floor. Place your arms a little bit away from your sides, with the palms up. Let your legs be straight, or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Make yourself as comfortable as you can. If you can, loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.
Place one hand on your stomach take a deep breath through your nose. Slightly push your belly out into your hand – this is abdominal breathing.
You may place a book on your belly instead your hand and repeat abdominal breathing a few times, exploring the subtleties of muscle group working and observing the book waving up and down. Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 3, 4 or 5. Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 3.4 or 5 again, if you find this helpful.
Best is to practise Exercise 2 twice a day, 10 or 20 times.
Don’t rush to get up after relaxation exercises. Sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes to avoid the possibility of feeling dizzy. Open your eyes and make sure you feel all right before standing up.
Deep abdominal breathing promotes full exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide. This type of breathing can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure. A lower resting heart rate and low blood pressure are general signs of good health.
When we examine our body and mind carefully, we can notice a connection between breathe and how we feel. When breath is relaxed our mind becomes clear and we feel calm and even tempered.
People who are ill or suffer depression, anxiety or panic attacks take more often or only thoracic breaths. When we feel emotionally upset, we breathe harder and faster or we are unable to inhale deeply and exhale fully and the mind is agitated by thoughts or overpowered by emotion.
Research has associated breathing patterns with specific emotional states: depression, obsession, fear of intimacy or trust, feelings of inadequacy or incoherency and also show that WE CAN INFLUENCE OUR EMOTIONS BY THE WAY WE BREATHE.
Breathing too quickly, and deeply, can make you feel dizzy, faint or even more anxious. Taking slow, regular breaths can help you to control anxious thoughts and feelings, and make you feel calmer.
As children we used to breathe spontaneously and naturally to our abdomen area. Now, find and take out as many photos from your childhood as possible.
Pin them in every room you work, study, rest or sleep. Put them on your desk or bedside table to keep reminding yourself about deeper, abdominal breathing. You may also write ‘abdominal breath’ on colourful post-in notes and stick them to furniture the same way as you learn vocabulary of a new language.
The more conscious you are of your breathing the more you will feel in harmony with your inner self and outer world.
Thank you for reading and I invite to share with me your experiences.