Are you breathing?

A breath of air

We don’t normally think about breathing, we just do it.  It comes naturally to us.  We don’t have to consciously think about it and if we stop breathing for long enough we die.


For centuries breathing in specific ways has been recognised as good exercise and very calming for our mind and body.  Breath control can bring great benefits to your health.


Just try this –  place a hand on your upper chest and the other one on your body just above your navel.  Take a normal breath in and out  – did your hands move?  I hope you said yes and at least one of them did.    This time keeping your hands where they are take a really deep breath in, filling your lungs and breathe slowly out.  Was there any difference?


Many of us when we breathe in and out move our shoulders up and down, just filling the top part of our lungs.  Others may take a breath that fills the lungs completely and their diaphragm, or area above their navel, moves in and out as they breathe.  Some may breathe from the middle of their lungs.


Taking deep breaths, slowly filling your lungs and slowly controlling the out breath, can be very calming and relaxing.  If you have done any meditation, yoga or other similar techniques you will be familiar with deep breathing and know the benefits of it.


Many of us don’t breathe well. Sitting at a desk working, using a pc all day, driving, sitting slumped in front of the TV, means that we don’t always breathe in a way the helps us best.    When you take a deep breath in filling your lungs, the area around your diaphragm will move out a little and when you breathe out that area will be pulled in, as you use your muscles to squeeze the air out of your lungs.  If you haven’t done this type of breathing before it can feel a bit strange.  If you get light headed just breathe in your normal way for a little and then try a few more deep breathes.


There are many different ways in which to use breathing to help you relax.  They often form part of yoga exercises.  A simple technique is to sit comfortably and take a breath in as you count slowly to 4, hold the breath for a count of 2, breathe slowly out for the count of 4 and hold your breath for the count of 2 and repeat this a few times.  You can increase the count as you get more comfortable with the process.


You can also really use your stomach muscles to control the breath and this helps to exercise that area of your body.  Imagine as you breathe in you are filling your lungs from the bottom up, allow your diaphragm to expand, now your mid chest and then your upper chest.  As you breathe out slowly contract the diaphragm, pulling in those muscles, then tighten the muscles in your rib cage and push the air up and out of your lungs.  Try to keep your shoulders as still as possible when doing this.  Do this a few times and just sense what you sense as you breathe in this way. It will usually feel different from your normal breathing.


Using your breath in these different ways is a great way to relax and can help you when you feel stressed.  Taking a deep breathe in and breathing slowly out allows you to take time to de-stress and then you will be more clear headed and cope better.  If you feel a bit panicky start to take deep slow breathes in and out through your nose, it does help.      For other ways to relax visit

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