Before reading this article, answer a question: are you breathing now? You could probably answer, “Of course I breathe, what a silly question! If I didn’t breathe, I couldn’t even read, right? ” Well, kind of 😉
To move on it is important that you stop every once in a while: how is your breathing? Slow, fast, deep or shallow? Are you breathing through your nose or mouth? If you think about something that worries you, how does it change? Try to notice it.
Breathing, in fact, is like a remote control for the brain: when you breathe slowly, the brain oxygenates and the brain works in a fluid, conscious and calm way. When breathing is labored, fast or too deep, even thoughts short-circuit. It becomes difficult to make a decision and you lose lucidity at a time when keeping it is essential.
What you will find in this article
Mindful breathing: the benefits
Breathing slowly and consciously can help you in many situations and brings many benefits to the body.
For example, according to research done by the Barrow Neurological Institute (here), breathing well can significantly reduce the sensation of pain. According to this research, chronic pain sufferers, particularly patients with fibromyalgia, can lower the level of pain with adequate breathing practices that also contribute to improving the depressive states that are often associated with these disorders.
Furthermore, conscious breathing affects concentration and memory: the way we breathe can influence the way our memories are consolidated (i.e. they are strengthened and stabilised).
Controlling breathing also plays a very important role in managing anxiety and even panic attacks. According to psychologist and panic disorder expert Alicia E. Meuret at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, learning to breathe in a way that reverses hyperventilation helps people reduce symptoms of attacks.
Hyperventilation is, in fact, common in patients with panic disorders: it is an altered state of breathing at rest, during which the concentration of oxygen in the blood increases and that of carbon dioxide decreases. In a nutshell: in hyperventilation you breathe more than necessary! The volume of air incorporated is excessive, the carbon dioxide is too little and oxygen cannot reach the tissues because it is retained by hemoglobin.
Practice mindful breathing: in the morning
Being aware of your breathing helps you better manage many situations, to be overwhelmed by excitement and anxiety and allows you to focus attention on what is important.
The idea that breathing influences our behavior is actually not new, we have had empirical knowledge of it for thousands of years, as evidenced by the numerous meditation practices associated with breathing practices.
It may be helpful to spend a few minutes each day doing breathing exercises. Constant practice improves over time and helps you connect with yourself on multiple levels.
First, start the day with some conscious breathing: don’t get up, stay on the bed (or put yourself on a mat on the floor if you prefer) face up and keep your eyes closed. Stretch first: Stretch your arms and legs as if someone is pulling you by the hands and feet. Stretch and retract, then again stretch and retract. Then bring your arms to your sides and focus only on the breath, feel the air coming in and out. It enters through the nose and exits the nose, then again enters the nose and exits the mouth, slowly with pursed lips. Now when you inhale visualise the air entering your body and filling it, like a balloon, feel it flow fresh and light throughout your body, right up to the extremities. Breathe out through your nose: imagine the air coming out of every pore of your body. Repeat it one more time then keep your eyes closed for a couple of seconds. Now get up slowly, turning on your side.
It doesn’t take long: a few minutes to start the day with more energy. You will see, as soon as you get used to it, it will become as easy as like turning on the light!
Rebalancing and relaxing breathing
The balancing breathing technique is like a glass of water: it is always good, you can do it anywhere and in a short time. Particularly useful when you have to find balance, calm, before important meetings, when you feel invaded by fatigue in the middle of the day.
Here it is:
- You can also do it while remaining in the chair, keeping your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Close your eyes inhale and count to 4: 1, 2, 3, 4
- Now exhale through the nose counting backwards: 4-3-2-1
- Repeat this 10 times (you can also increase when you are comfortable) always paying attention to your breathing: you must concentrate only on that.
This relaxing breathing technique requires careful attention and is to be practiced in the evening, just before bedtime. After dinner it helps digestion because by lowering your breathing rhythm below 4 breaths per minute, it triggers the response of the parasympathetic nervous system and reduces the heart rate. Never do it before driving or actions that require attention and clarity. It is perfect, however, with helping to sleep.
- Lie down with your arms at your sides and close your eyes.
- Inhale through the nose and count to 4: 1,2,3,4
- Now hold your breath and count to 4: 1,2,3,4
- Exhale through your nose starting from 8: 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1
Repeat this 10 times
Note: try to do both techniques in well aerated rooms (or near your Cube!). It is important to pay attention not only to how you breathe, but also to what you are breathing 🙂