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Take a Moment and Breathe!


In this month’s blog, let’s stop to breathe and look at breathing! The usual tips of eating a healthy diet, moving your body, and avoiding unhealthy habits (e.g. smoking and vaping) are still important, but there are many other ways to improve and maintain your wellness. Breathing is a powerful tool for optimal wellness especially in the festive season!

As a child (especially the girls among us) you would probably have been told to hold your belly in, put your shoulders back, chest out and stand up straight. This may be OK for our posture but is terrible for our breathing. This posture, along with its opposite the ‘slumped over’ posture lead to us to take shallow chest breaths.

The main reason that this type of breathing is an issue, is because it usually reflects and causes stress. In other words, it sends messages to our nervous system that we are stressed which causes us to breathe even more shallow. This leads to a vicious cycle of stress, shallow breathing, and more stress. When we breathe properly nerve cells in our brain help to increase our relaxation and attention and reduce anxiety. So, in other words you can change your mood simply by concentrating on your breath. Breathing is an automatic function that keeps us alive. Luckily though, unlike our heartbeat or digestion, breathing is a bodily function we can consciously control.

The first step to breathing effectively is to pay attention to it. Be more breath aware in all aspects of your life, especially when you are both stressed and relaxed. Awareness is key to making a change in any aspect of our lives, including breathing. Exercise that incorporates breathing; such as yoga, Qi Gong, Pilates and Tai chi are all good examples of exercise where breath is a big focus. A good teacher will show you how to breathe more effectively during these exercises which can then lead to better breathing in everyday life.

360 degree balloon (an advance on ‘belly breathing’ is the answer to breathing correctly. By inhaling and breathing into our belly and lower back this means we are using our diaphragm correctly. Think of this area as being a big balloon that you are breathing into, with a tutorial available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yyj3XZYJGJY . The diaphragm is the muscle beneath your rib cage. When we breathe in correctly, our diaphragm helps fill our lungs with fresh air by pushing down into your belly. When we breathe out correctly the diaphragm releases up and our belly’s move in. Holding our belly in hampers this movement of the diaphragm which means we can’t breathe properly.

In addition, deep belly (or diaphragmatic) breathing activates the vagus nerve which is partly how breathing calms us. Low activity of the vagus nerve is linked to inflammation, depression, stress and poor emotional and attentional regulation. Whereas healthy vagus nerve activity is associated with positive emotions, reducing addiction and cravings, and creating psychological balance.

Lastly, good breathing also helps reduce acidity in our body and make us more alkaline. Acidity in your body is well known to increase your risk of developing chronic disease.

Although more is better, even 1 minute of deep breathing a day will help. The most important time to breath is when we feel stressed. On that note, the festive break will likely give you a few extra ‘opportunities’ to breathe so make the most of them. Have a happy and 360 degree balloon breathing Christmas and New Year break!

Breathing is an automatic function that keeps us alive. Luckily though, unlike our heartbeat or digestion, breathing is a bodily function we can consciously control.

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elocal Digital Edition – February 2024 (#274)

elocal Digital Edition
February 2024 (#274)

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