Learn to breathe well and relax
There are many reasons why we should learn how to breathe well. Appropriate breath can help our bodies in many ways and its importance is somewhat overlooked. Breathing can bring about relaxation, reduce stress levels, decrease pain, increase feelings of good health and wellbeing.
So, what makes me stressed?
We've all heard the expression 'fight or flight'. This is how the body has evolved to respond to any threatening situation. In times of stress the body uses a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol turns on processes we need for survival and switches off processes that are not needed for survival. This is great in an emergency, but if you are stressed all of the time, prolonged elevated cortisol levels have been found in blood streams. These chronically high levels are linked to depression, mood swings, memory changes, poor healing, pain, weight gain and immune problems.
On the flip side, when you're relaxed and feeling good, your body produces 'happy hormones' such as opioids and serotonin.
How do I de-stress?
- For a start, try to stop worrying. Pilates, Yoga, relaxation, meditation and breathing techniques have also been proven to reduce the level of circulating stress hormones and increase your level of happy hormones.
- Try going for a walk, listening to relaxing music, or just clearing your mind for twenty minutes every day.
- Try to set aside 'worry time'. Rather than worrying about things constantly (and keeping your cortisol levels elevated) make a specific time every week when you think about your worries. If a worry enters your head at another time, like when you're trying to fall asleep, set it aside for your 'worry time'.
- Try this relaxation technique when lying down or sitting comfortably. Close your eyes and focus on your deep breathing. Focus on the cool air as you breathe in through your nose and the warm air and you breathe out through your mouth. Focus on one body part at a time starting from your head all the way to your toes imagining all your muscles releasing and feeling heavy.
- Try to take time to practice mindfulness throughout your day. Even a minute here and there to become mindful of your breath, the comings and goings of your body sensations, tensions and your surroundings can help to de-clutter your brain and provide energy and calmness.
And there's even more to the importance of breathing well
We also know that learning to make your diaphragm stronger by breathing well has many a physical effect. This is the breath we strive for at your Fix Program classes. These can include:
- A more efficient delivery of oxygen to your body. Using your diaphragm allows for greater volumes of air into all corners of your lungs.
- The physical mobilising and stretching effect of breathing into your lower lungs will improve movement of your ribs and the stiff thoracic or middle spine.
- The prevention of extra work and tension of the chest and neck muscles which are often inappropriately used for daily breath. Most of us know how tired these muscles typically are anyway. Why add to that with your breathing style?
- A stronger deep postural 'corset' for our spine and pelvis. The diaphragm has connections to many organs and muscles in the trunk via fascia and via this connectivity has a crucial role in stability and movement control in the region.
Yes, the diaphragm is a muscle that too can be strengthened! And a stronger diaphragm will lead to a stronger deep abdominal corset, pelvic floor and spinal alignment.
Try to become more aware of your breath as you go about your busy lives. This can happen anywhere – at work, rest or play. Slow down the rate of your breath, relax your neck and shoulders and visualise the breath into your lower ribs. Imagine breathing widely and sense the expansion and movement in your trunk.
Slow your breath and the mind will follow. Healthy mind, healthy and strong body.