Take a Deep Breath

Can changing your energy be as simple as taking a deep breath asks Katy Young…

Breathe easy,’ that’s what they tell us when need to relax. If only it was, well, that easy, because when the going gets tough good breathing is hard to do. For what might seem like pretty standard practice, moving air in and out of our lungs to expel carbon dioxide and bring in oxygen, becomes difficult just when we need it most. For oxygen isn’t just about giving life, it’s about giving us a quality of life too.

‘Correct breathing helps us live a happier, healthier and more relaxed life,’ explains Alan Dolan, aka The Breath Guru. ‘Learning how to breathe right will also teach us how to respond to the stressful moments which inevitably come our way too.’

Those moments have been hard to avoid of late have they not? The shallow breathers amongst us will attest to that. Converts to the better breathing movement will also be first to tell you that the rise of respiratory illnesses is a direct result of the pandemic, as fear, anxiety and depression are so detriment to deep, healthy breathing.

Pandemic aside, there is today’s whizzing, whirring ‘always on’ culture that encourages us to move fast, breathe short. ‘Our world is very visual, auditory and intellectual,’ warns Dolan, essentially pointing out that we are dangerously head-based. ‘Humans are not designed to live at such a pace and be in their heads so much.’

He is right. For a species who thrives on understanding our wholeness for complete stillness and wellbeing we spend far too much time in our minds, where most of us tend to be far too busy. ‘We are so overstimulated now, with most of us triggered to sit in the sympathetic, fight or flight mode, without knowing how to deactivate it,’ he explains. ‘But the breath can teach us how to do this.’

Dolan’s breathwork practice focuses on using breath to move our nervous system into the parasympathetic, ‘rest and digest mode’ as he calls it. ‘When we practice how to breathe, we learn more about how our body operates. We learn how to calm our minds and move our attention lower down into the body. This changes everything. Put simply, we learn how to stop being so head-based and become more grounded and balanced.’ Sounds good right?

A powerful resource in today’s fast-paced world, good breathwork feels like a wonderful tool for holding some space for yourself. ‘Correct breathing helps us learn how not to collapse under the weight of the emotion as we might have done before. Instead, we learn to ‘surf’ the sea of emotions that are presented to us and stay on the ‘surf-board’ irrespective of the size of the waves.’ A little woo-woo perhaps, definitely factual on the scientific papers.

The fewer breaths we take per minute the more relaxed we feel. The more oxygen we inhale too the more our oxygen-dependent vital organs will thank us for it, particular the brain which takes it as a signal to switch off the high alert state. Conscious breathing also allows us to control the large vagus nerve, a cranial nerve which goes right to the stomach, and which is responsible for butterflies when we are anxious. And those tight neck and shoulders of yours will also appreciate a return to deeper breathing,
as shallow, mouth breaths tend to tighten this classic area of tension.

And while Dolan promises his ‘surf-board’ theory will alleviate stress, depression and sleep issues, while boosting your immunity and energy, there is good lab-based evidence to support the use of slow, nasal breathing exercises to alleviate the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Far from us to teach you the basics of human life, this is a healthy reminder that being on autopilot oft isn’t relaxing at all. Dolan describes breathwork as ‘meditation for those who cannot meditate.’ Ahhh, let your mind control your breathing, and a good mind will follow. And breathe…

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