Do not underestimate the effect that breathing has on your body. Breathing all the way through, down into the stomach and getting oxygen sent out into all the cells has a huge impact on your health and well-being. Most of us take breathing for granted, because it flows automatically without us having to think about it.
Before I started practicing yoga and listening to my body, I was only breathing through the upper part of my chest, and I still do when I am not aware of it or am stressed. Pretty much all the people I have trained over time have had shallow breathing when they started with me.
Here you get a guide with four exercises for the deep breathing, what it can do for you and how you can actively use it in your everyday life.
For me, it is important that the exercises are easy. I need to be able to make them no matter where I am, and without having to sacrifice that great thought process. Otherwise I know what happens: I do not get it done… I therefore give you four exercises that have worked for me. Feel for what works for you and do it if it resonates with you.
First exercise: Breathe consciously
First and foremost, it is important that you become more conscious and aware of your breathing. Try to start out with five times a day to stop and breathe consciously ten times. Set if necessary five “alarms” on your phone or tie it up to another habit, e.g. after brushing your teeth or before eating a meal. You do not have to think about technique and shape, but just breathe and feel where in your body your breathing is going. All you have to do is observe. Nothing else.
Second exercise: All the way down into the stomach
It is quite simple and effective to breathe all the way down into the stomach. Most people, who are not conscious about their breathing, breathe in the throat and in the chest.
In the beginning, when doing this exercise, it is a good idea to lie down. I always do it in the evening before I go to sleep as it quickly makes me calm down, even though my thoughts are spinning around in my head and I have restlessness in my body. As you become familiar with the exercise, you can do it anywhere: while sitting at work, in the train, or waiting in line at the supermarket.
Lie on your back and place both hands on your stomach. Inhale through the nose, past the throat and chest and all the way down to the stomach. Feel how your stomach lifts your hands, and imagine that your inhalation hits the bottom of your stomach. Then let go, and just as quietly let the air seep out through the nostrils again. Repeat the exercise ten times. At first, the mind may be distracted after a few rounds, but then you just lovingly and firm direct your attention back to your breathing.
In terms of food, I have used breathing exercises a lot. At one point I made a deal with myself, that if I was going to eat something and could feel that it was my emotions that were hungry, then I had to breathe ten times and afterwards ask myself what I really needed. It was usually not a whole cake or a bag of chips. Sometimes I come to the conclusion that this is exactly the bag of chips I need, and then it’s ok, but it’s rare. Most often, the desire and need disappears.
Third exercise: Gradual exhalation
Once you have become comfortable with the breathing down into the stomach, you can move on to the step of gradual exhalation. In this exercise it is best to lie down, as it requires a little more concentration. Breathe all the way down into the stomach and keep breathing all the way up your chest, neck and shoulders.
Hold your breath shortly. Then let go and take a gradual exhale – first in the shoulders, then in the throat and chest, and finally you empty your stomach for air. At first, it may be a little difficult to control your exhalation, but practice. It will come.
Fourth Exercise: Hard Exhalations
This exercise is cleansing and can be done at any time during the day. Close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose and down to the bottom of your stomach. Exhale through your mouth, and when you feel there is no more air left, you exhale hard. Keep going until you feel that your lungs are completely empty. Repeat the exercise about ten times.
Breathing is essential. It is amongst others because, all yoga and meditation practice starts with the breath, because our breathing is the direct path to the central nervous system and thus the direct path to silencing the noise that is in us and around us in the form of thoughts, feelings and moods so that we can finally hear our inner voice, our essence.
The good thing is that breathing exercises can be done anywhere and anytime. They require no tools, no prerequisites and no guru, in other words they are at hand and can therefore also be performed in emergencies and in times of need.
Every time you breathe, you connect with your core and thereby also with God/the Universe. Think of your breathing as the connection between your body and your soul.