We all know how important it is to breathe… without it you wouldn’t be reading this!
Something I’ve been aware of recently is the variety of breathing techniques that are promoted for improving sleep and reducing stress. I learned a variety of breathing techniques during my yoga teacher training, and it’s interesting to see how these have been scientifically proven to have different effects on the body and mind.
Nose breathing takes you into a state of relaxation
Simply by breathing through the nose instead of the mouth (even when exercising) we move our body chemistry from a stressed state into a relaxed state.
When we’re feeling angry, anxious or fearful, the sympathetic nervous system responds by producing cortisol to enable you to take action – stand and fight, or run for your life! We need to breathe in quickly to rapidly transport oxygen to our muscles, and so in these stressed states we breathe through our mouths.
When we’re feeling grateful, joyful, calm or peaceful, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which allows us to feel relaxed, rest and digest. In this relaxed state we breathe through our nose.
We can also change our state by changing our breath. So if you want to feel more relaxed, simply breathe through your nose.
Take time today to focus on your breath. If you’re a mouth breather you’ll need to practice breathing through your nose before it happens automatically. Gently taping your mouth closed (at night too) is a quick way to teach your body how to do that. Simply place a small amount of tape vertically across your lips. Make sure your lips are in a relaxed position when doing this before going to sleep.
My favourite breath practice has a 4-2-4-2 rhythm
Breathe in for 4
Hold for 2
Breathe out for 4
Hold for 2
Repeat for anything from 1 to 15 minues and see how relaxed you feel.
You can play relaxing music whilst doing this, or sit in nature and listen to the ocean, the birds or the wind in the trees. Advanced meditators will be able to do it with kids running around the house, or with noisy traffic outside the window, as being able to ignore such distractions is one of the many benefits of meditating regularly.
How to do mindful breath practice
Find a comfortable place to sit, with your back and head supported
Set a timer if necessary
Put your phone into flight mode
Start playing your music if you’re using it
Close your eyes
Start to breathe mindfully through your nose
Gently, silently count in your mind
It’s a wonderful thing to do any time of the day, and is a great addition to your existing night-time ritual.