Many of us are feeling the compounding effects that lockdown is having on our mental and physical health, and we are looking for ways to alleviate the pressure.
Now may be a good time to learn about the power of breathing exercises. They have been show to help reduce stress and anxiety and, if practiced regularly, will help your mental and physical wellbeing.
The majority of us are unaware that we rarely utilise our lungs to their full capacity; in one of our earlier publications, we explained how breathing exercises that aim to improve the depth of our breath can help support us through the symptoms of a respiratory illness like Covid-19.
Once you become aware of how to harness the power of your breath through simple exercises, you will be able to call on it as an invaluable ‘go to’ tool that you can use anywhere as part of your health and wellbeing armoury.
The function of breathing
Breathing is an automatic body function that we rarely think much about in everyday life. Most of us ‘shallow-breathe’ without even knowing it, tending to only use the upper part of our lungs. This inefficient way of breathing can be seen by our shoulders and chest rising and falling as we breathe, resulting in stale breath being retained in the lower lobes of our lungs after we breathe out.
Even when we are actively exercising, many of us don’t tend to use our lungs fully. In fact, some sports such as rowing or cycling, because of the position of our bodies (sitting and forward reaching), compromises our ability to use our lungs to their full capacity.
Someone who needs control over their breath, such as a singer, athlete or professional sports person, will be much more aware of the importance of how they breathe. They will learn the importance of using the large, stronger muscle called the diaphragm and the short intercostal muscles that lie between our ribs to draw breath deep into their lungs. Deep breathing this way means that instead of your breath being drawn down vertically, with your chest filling with air and expanding upwards, the breath expands horizontally, with your stomach expanding outwards. Using these muscles gives you command over your breath.