We wanted to follow on from our last blog about taking time for yourself to share one of our favourite breathing exercises which is very easy to do. It sounds strange to describe breathing as easy. Of course it is, it’s second nature – but is it?
Have you ever watched a baby breathing? Seen their abdomen rise and fall with each breath? Do you breathe like that?
The fact is that most of us don’t use the whole of our lungs when we breathe, and that can lead to congestion, tension in the upper back and shoulders and even weakened respiratory muscles. And at this time of year when many of us succumb to colds, it is vital that our lungs are as healthy as can be.
Our breath is influenced by our thoughts, our emotions and even our posture. We all know that our breath can become rapid and shallow when we’re stressed or anxious, but how good is it when we’re just going about an average day?
The benefits of practising regular deep breathing are well known and are well documented, including:
- reduced stress, anxiety and depression
- lower blood pressure
- muscle relaxation
- clearing the lungs and sinuses
- increased energy
You can practise this exercise anywhere, especially if you feel the need to silence your thoughts and create a sense of calm:
Alternate Nostril Breathing:
- sit comfortably and hold your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale deeply and slowly through your left nostril
- imagine that there is a tube running down from your nostril into a large bowl in your lap; you want your breath to travel smoothly down that tube and fill the bowl
- at the end of the breath close your left nostril with your ring finger and hold your breath for a count of 5 – the still point
- now, lift your right thumb and exhale smoothly through your right nostril, imagining that you are now emptying the bowl and the air is coming up through a second tube up to and out of your right nostril
- after fully exhaling, inhale through the same (right) nostril and fill the bowl –and enjoy the still point again for a count of 5
- lift your ring finger and exhale smoothly through your left nostril to empty the bowl.
Continue with this practice for a few minutes, alternating your breathing through each nostril. Once you have found your rhythm it should become effortless and, as you observe your breath, your mind will naturally quieten. You are being mindful of your breathing.
Remember the baby’s abdomen? Well, if you practise alternate nostril breathing regularly it will increase your awareness of your lung capacity, and encourage you to breathe more deeply into the lower part of your lungs. As well as helping you find a few extra moments of peace, whatever the time of day.