By Itumeleng Solar Baloyi / 1 of March 2021
Take a deep breath in... and then out. This is such a simple, yet powerful, practice. Yes, breathing can be a practice, but only if you do it mindfully. This means inhaling and exhaling with awareness and are fully in the moment.
We are always breathing, but most of the time our breathing is shallow and unconscious. This is severely under-utilising the magic power of our breath. In fact, we take breathing for granted to such an extent that most of us are doing it wrong!
‘There’s a wrong way to breathe?’ you may wonder. And the answer is yes! As a meditation teacher, I use conscious breathwork in my sessions. I realised that many people actually don’t know how to breathe properly.
For example, if I asked you to take a deep breath right now, would your shoulders go up or stay down? Chances are they would go up, which is a dysfunctional way to inhale and leads to more anxiety and tension. But we are going to try to resolve that from today onwards with three easy breathwork exercises that you can try any time.
1. Morning Stretch
This is a breathing exercise that you can do first thing in the morning to stretch and relieve stiff muscles as well as clear your respiratory tract.
- Stand up straight and bend forward from the waist, keeping your knees slightly bent. Let your arms dangle loosely to the floor, trying not to control the movement. You can sway from side to side.
- Inhale slowly and deeply, with intention.
- Roll your body up slowly, vertebrae by vertebrae, starting with your abdomen, chest and shoulders, and ending with your head. Be careful not to roll your head up too quickly. Take your time! Then hold your breath.
- As you begin to bend forward again, exhale slowly. Repeat this a few times to loosen up the body for an energetic day ahead.
2. Deep Sigh Breathing
This exercise involves sighing, which something our bodies tend to do instinctively as a way to release something, whether it be frustration or boredom. You can do this exercise at any time of the day when you feel like you have pent up energy and need a release.
All you do is breathe in with your mouth wide open, allowing air into your body. Hold for a few seconds and then exhale out with a deep loud sigh (don’t be shy!). Scream out your sigh if you need to.
The point is to release, release, release! So a big part of the exercise is to allow yourself to do just that. You will actually *feel* the tension leaving your body.
3. Wim Hof Method
This is a deep-breathing technique that is scientifically proven to invigorate the nervous system. When we breathe with shallow breaths, this causes the body to oxidise and acidify. So this method improves the chemistry of the body and helps you reset your immune system.
You can do this sitting up or lying down, just make sure you’re comfortable. Inhale through your mouth and exhale through your mouth with no pausing between each breath. Imagine your mouth is making the sounds of the ocean as you breathe, as though waves are coming in and out.
Do this for about three rounds, holding your breath with no air in your lungs in between these rounds and prepare to feel revived!
Overall, mindful breathing can help to improve your physical health and mental wellbeing. So take some time out daily to inhale and exhale with intention!