The purpose of deep breathing is to get the respiratory system to function at its best. Respiration helps to purify the body. Deep breathing improves blood and body fluid circulation and disposal of carbon dioxide. Have you ever watched how a baby breathes? Babies breathe all the way down into their bellies—taking very deep breaths. As we age, our breath becomes shallow for a variety of reasons such as pollution in the air or wearing restricting clothing.
I want to share with you some exercises that will help you relearn how to breathe deep into the belly to the lowest part of the lungs where the blood is richest in oxygen. Deep breathing is important because the oxygen that you take into your lungs goes out to every part of your body. When you are breathing properly, it will bring good health and can be the best preventative treatment for conditions like high blood pressure and asthma.
The average person breathes 15 times per minute (that is 15 inhales and exhales). Slowing down the breath will slow down the heart rate, reduce stress and slow the aging process, leading to a longer life. The goal of these exercises is to bring attention to your breathing and work toward breathing 5 times per minute (5 inhales and 5 exhales). Keep practicing until it becomes natural.
Belly Breathing (abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing)
- Place your right hand over the center of your chest, and your left hand over the center of your belly and take a slow deep breath in. If you notice that the hand on your belly rises higher than the hand on your chest, you have been successful in drawing the breath deeply into the depths of your lungs. If that isn’t what happened for you take a minute or two to experiment, be sure to empty your lungs fully on your out-breath to encourage the next breath in to deepen and cause your stomach to rise.
- Exhale through your mouth, letting the breath out slowly and completely. When you feel that your lungs are nearly empty, pull your stomach in a little to squeeze the very last air from your lungs.
- Repeat four times, until you have completed five cycles of deep refreshing abdominal breathing.
Once you are comfortable with this breathing technique you can stop using your hands, and you might like to add some words to the exercise to help you feel a sense of calmness.
Counting Breaths is a simple technique that occupies your mind by keeping it focused on counting every time you exhale. Placing your full attention on your outgoing breath, you may notice that things start to feel less rushed and more peaceful.
- Take a few deep breaths and let tension drain away from your shoulders and concentrate on breathing steadily, slowly and quietly.
- Count "one" to yourself as you exhale, and the next time you exhale, count "two", on the next exhalation count "three" and onwards until you reach the number five.
- Begin a new cycle, starting again with "one" on your next exhalation. Watch your breath and try and breathe deeply and steadily until you have counted up to five and then begin again.
- Repeat this cycle five times, or more if you feel comfortable.
The Calming Breath
The power in this particular technique lies in counting out an extended exhalation which feels very calming and also helps slow your heart rate if it's racing away due to stress or anxiety.
- Part your lips slightly and curl your tongue up so it's resting on the roof of your mouth, behind your top teeth (the place you put your tongue to make the sound of the letter "L"). Take a deep breath in through the nose for the count of four, then hold your breath for the count of two, and release slowly through slightly pursed lips for the count of eight.
The calming breath is also useful if you feel angry or irritated, it can quickly calm and cool your mind and help you gain a sense of clarity and control.
This breathing exercise has a similar effect to the way dogs cool themselves down by panting, though you'll be glad to know it looks more discreet and you can do it without anyone noticing.
- Part your lips slightly and curl your tongue up so it's resting on the roof of your mouth, behind your top teeth (the place you put your tongue to make the sound of the letter "l"). Now breathe in slowly through your slightly open mouth, and feel the cool sensation of the incoming air on the underside of your tongue. Hold the breath for a moment or two and then exhale slowly through your nose. You can repeat this until you feel cool, calm and collected.
What is the best thing about these exercises? You can do them anytime and anywhere! Below is a really cool website where you can go into a virtual breathing room. Check it out.