Leah Simmons on breathing the right way
And its life changing effects
By Leah Simmons
Breathing. One of the few things in our day that we actually don’t have to think about. It happens (thank goodness) without much interference from us. Just like our heart beating or our eyes blinking, breathing is an involuntary action, so you’d be forgiven for thinking we couldn’t do anything to improve upon what our body instinctively already does.
But breathing correctly can have huge benefits for our overall health. Modern science is showing us that making even the smallest adjustments to the way we breathe can drastically improve athletic ability, lower blood pressure, increase cellular function, prevent snoring and alleviate allergies, autoimmune disorders and even asthma. And it doesn’t have to leave you gasping for air!
3 Fundamentals for breathing your way to good health
Slow It Down
As James Nestor says in his excellent 2020 book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, “Breathing is like rowing a boat. Taking a zillion short and stilted strokes will get you where you’re going, but they pale in comparison to the efficiency and speed of fewer, longer strokes.”
Being mindful of the length, the width and the depth of each breath can improve not only your athletic ability but can bring focus, clarity and calm into your every day.
The Nose Knows
Breathing through your nose not only regulates your intake of oxygen and release of carbon dioxide, breaths that come via the sinuses stimulate the release of a large dose of nitric oxide — a gas that increases circulation and boosts your immune system. And being mindful of breathing through your nose even when exerting yourself (i.e. during exercise) can further encourage your body to work more efficiently.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like anything, the more you do it, the better you get. Consistently taking the time to focus on how you breathe is going to go a long way in improving your health overall. You will begin to feel clearer, sharper and more focused. Your sleep will improve and you will have more energy than you will know what to do with.
Deep Focused Breathing
- Make sure you have at least 5-10 minutes free from distractions (kids, phones, email) then find a position that is comfortable for you. It could be sitting in a chair, on a cushion or lying down.
- Close your eyes, notice any areas of tension in your body and consciously relax those areas.
- Place your hands on your belly. Inhale steadily through your nose for a slow count of four, making sure you bring the air into your abdomen, expanding the belly as well as the chest. Pause at the top of your inhale.
- Exhale through the nose for a slow count of six making sure you empty the body of all the air. Feel your belly contract. Pause at the bottom of your exhale.
- If your mind starts to wander, notice your thoughts without attaching to them, and simply return your focus back to your breath.
- Repeat this sequence for up to 10 minutes being mindful of breathing into your whole body with each inhalation and exhalation.