We live in a fast paced society. True? I hate to admit it, but I often find myself rushing to get to work on time, chewing my food too fast, frustrated at traffic and slow drivers, easily peeved at the my high-speed internet, and whizzing around my house leaving a tornado trail behind me.
However, I have been on a journey to be more present, intentional, and most recently – to breathe. I must say that, in this fast paced culture, it is almost funny that we have to be so persistent to carve out even a little time to do the things that should almost be the most natural to us. Stretching, relaxing, being, and the most innate thing of all: breathing. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves we are human beings, not human doers.
Intentional deep breathing has many benefits, one of which can be to reduce stress. Whether you find yourself in a stressful or painful moment or not, pausing to take five to ten deep breaths with your eyes closed can not only create a sense of calmness, but can also help to decrease muscles tension, aches, and pain. Overall stress and pain can be decreased with this practice. Deep breathing can also reduce blood pressure, strengthen abdominal and intestinal walls, and promote better blood flow. Deep breathing can promote better sleep and doing so right before bed has been supporting me in drifting off to sleep effortlessly.
Deep breathing releases endorphins throughout the body. Endorphins are feel-good, natural painkillers created by our own bodies. When practicing deep breathing, the upward and downward movement of the diaphragm helps remove toxins from the organs, promoting better blood flow. Oxygen provides energy, which means that we are creating an increase in our energy level by breathing deeply. -Livestrong.com
You may have also heard of deep breathing referred to as, belly breathing, abdominal breathing and diaphragmatic breathing. All of these names are very similar and intentional ways to breath, using the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the dome-shaped sheet of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. It is attached to the spine, ribs and sternum and is the main muscle of respiration, playing a very important role in the breathing process. -theinnerbody.com
Speaking as a Respiratory Therapist now, when re-educating my COPD patients on proper breathing techniques, I ask them to imagine a beautiful new-born baby sleeping on his or her back. When that baby sleeps you will see the chest rise and fall. The baby is using the diaphragm to breath, not the accessory muscles (meaning the muscles in the neck, upper chest, shoulders, and between the ribs). Often when people are compromised, in this case they have a disease, or in other cases we could be stressed, nervous, in pain, or exercising and fatigued, all of us can recruit accessory muscles to facilitate breathing. But, if we want to be efficient, increase concentration and energy, or simply prepare for optimal performance we need to focus our breathing.
Working deep breathing into the routine of your day is wonderful because is requires no equipment, space, and minimal time. You can do it in the morning with your coffee, in the car or on the train while on your commute. Try it at your desk, during your workouts, before a presentation, on the couch, on the floor, in a park, on a run, during spin, or with your kids. Do it while you walk, while you listen to music, while you sit in silence, by yourself, during a cool down, or in your bed before you go to sleep! (I feel like I should say I do not like green eggs and ham…I do not like them Sam I am!)
The basic how to guide:
Even if you struggle with a wandering mind, you have to start somewhere. It is really just this easy: Breath.
Begin in a comfortable position with good posture. (Whether you are standing, seated, or lying down, always make sure you have proper alignment.)
Next, relax your body. It may take a few moments, and a few breaths to get there. It might be helpful to place one hand on your chest and another on your abdomen.
As you inhale, concentrate on the hand on your abdomen moving away from your spine as your diaphragm muscle engages.
While you exhale, focus on that same hand moving in closer to your body as the diaphragm relaxes.
Try five to ten breaths.
Again, this same approach can be used in any setting!
Please let me know how deep breathing is helping your health efforts, relaxation efforts, and fitness goals. A rubber band that I have been sporting from one of last’s month’s Try It Thursday: August Challenge, August Habitude represents breathing to me. It is an excellent reminder to lower my shoulders in times of stress or tension and of course to breath! It also has encouraged me to carve out additional moments throughout the day for intention breathing time. This little rubber band has truly assisted me to develop a new habitude!