To keep our blogs varied and relevant, we are introducing a number of guest bloggers. First up is Jayne Attwood from Ad Astra Yoga & Pilates, based in West Oxfordshire.
Since I’ve been practicing Yoga, I’ve become much more aware of my breathing and how it effects my body and my mental state; it really is a powerful tool. During lockdown, I read James Nestor’s book Breathe. It’s a good informative read – quite disturbing in places, but fascinating. So, guided by what I learned in the book, here are 5 top tips on breathing properly!
STOP breathing through your mouth
Mouth breathing stresses your body. You can survive perfectly well breathing through your mouth, but surviving is different from living well. Aside from dogs when they’re temperature controlling, no other mammal breathes through their mouth.
Air travelling through the nose will be ’treated’ enabling your lungs to be able to extract about 20% more oxygen than by mouth breathing. Asthma, allergies, anxiety/stress management are all tied to how we breath (or over-breathe). Having that filter and pressure is ESSENTIAL to calming your body down to be able to work more efficiently.
Use your nose to breathe
The amazing breathing structures in the front of your skull take up the space of about the size of a billiard ball, and consist of lots of different channels, forcing the air to change direction, velocity and pressure. Shells share some structural similarities to our nasal passages & sinuses and they’re pretty good at keeping bad things out! The shapes are there for lots of reasons; filtering pollution & pathogens, moisturise and pressurise and therefore make more efficient use of the oxygen you take in, helping to keep the other systems in your body calm!
Improve your lung capacity
Good lung capacity is the number one indicator of longevity – FACT. The larger and the more efficiently they work, the longer you will live. Can you turn it around if you have poor lung capacity or if you’re older? Yes, you can! Slow your breath down and apply good posture (shoulders back, chest open). Mild to moderate exercise (walking, cycling) will help train your lungs, and guess what else? Yoga! In most Yoga classes there will be an element of breathing practice (aka Pranayama) before or after the main element of the class, or both! Pranayama includes lots of techniques including slowing the breath, breath retention and holding the lungs empty.
Breathing slowly tells your brain that you are calm. That signals your body’s other systems – breathing, heart, endocrine, digestion – you can control your nervous system and therefore your responses just by thinking about how you’re breathing.
We’re not talking breathing deeper either, just breathing gently and slowly, through your nose down into the pit of your belly. Extending the exhale is great at relaxing your body by slowing your heart rate and balances your O2 & CO2 levels.
Conscious breath holding
Conscious breath holding (as opposed to unconscious – when you’re stressed or doing something very physical) will increase your levels of CO2 and over time, you can build up a tolerance to it, which can improve athletic ability. You can hold your breath for quite a while before your O2 levels start to drop. If you can control your body in this manner, you can enter a very focussed state, or you can use some of these tools to cope with stressful situations (the cold water therapy Wim Hoff did in his TV series recently), or even use breath to heat yourself up.
Changing your breathing is EASY. Most people breathe an average 14, 000 breaths a day (around 3s inhale/3s exhale). If you can slow your breathing down to 5.5/5.5/5.5 (5.5s inhale/5.5s exhale/5.5 breaths per minute), you’ll only need to take 8000 breaths a day. Energy saved, lungs & oxygen exchange efficient, nervous and digestive systems at ‘chill’.
About the author
Let me say hello and tell you a bit about me. Having been into sport (swimming, running & triathlons in particular) all my life, I decided to turn an interest into a career in 2010. I’ve taught exercise in various forms around West Oxfordshire as my full time career for over 8 years, gaining qualifications, teaching experience, and having lots of laughs. My favourite 2 classes to teach are Mat Pilates and Yoga. I’ve participated in Yoga for 25 years, but once I completed my Yoga Teacher training, I just knew that this was where it would be at for me.
Teaching Passion: Yoga – I love it so much because it can be so many different things – slow, fast, sweaty, calm, strong, stretchy, mindful… Everyone needs to find time for some yoga in their life – and just to dispel a myth – you do NOT need to be flexible to do Yoga!
Favourite Ways to Keep Fit: Yoga & Pilates (obviously), weight training and walking. I use guided meditation from Headspace to keep my brain fit too.
Ad Astra Yoga & Pilates | | adastrayoga.org