Just BreatheI know what you are thinking, why do I need to read an article on breathing, I know perfectly well how to breathe. I just breathe in and breathe out – all done!

But and this is a big but – we are all breathing, but many of us are not breathing as well as we could, and in many cases modern day living is hampering how we breathe.

Statistics show that as many as 9 out of 10 of us are breathing in a way that works against our anatomy. We need to get back to breathing as we did when we were children!

Did you know that sitting at desks, our posture, feeling stressed and even how we dress can all impact how we breathe? In fact, activities like using social media, texting/emailing can cause us to actually hold our breath!

Very often the way we breathe reflects how we feel in that moment, so when we are stressed, our anxiety levels are high, our heart rate raises along with blood pressure and cortisol soars through the body, all of which means we take short sharp breaths – unfortunately this in turn makes us feel worse.

So, why not take a few moments to re-learn how to breathe in and breath out and reap the health benefits for doing so?

  • Instead of taking shallow upper chest breaths (like most of us do), try breathing from your stomach. Breathing through your nose, and inhale deeply. You should feel your abdomen rise (it can be helpful to try this exercise first of all in a lying down position, placing your hands or an object on your stomach so you can physically feel/see the movement). Your stomach will rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale.
  • When you are familiar with this belly type of breathing, you can extend the exercise further. Still lying down. Try inhaling to a count of 5 seconds and exhaling to a count of 5 seconds. As you exhale – really drop your stomach as much as is possible. This is a really useful exercise when you want to calm yourself, or as an aid to dropping off to sleep. Focusing on your breath sounds and heartbeat will make it even more restful.

The above exercises can help you be more mindful, can ease anxiety and stress, as well as lower your blood pressure, aid sleep and even ease pain. But breathing can also be altered to allow you to feel alert and full of energy.

Read on for how to boost your vitality:

  • Try an Intercostal Stretch. For this exercise you need to sit up straight. Drape one arm over your head (your bicep will cover your ear). Stretch to the opposite side (your elbow will be pointing straight overhead) – then inhale as deeply as you are able. If done correctly, your side will rise towards the ceiling. Relax, and then repeat on the other side. This is a great way to start the day.

If you think you would benefit from guided breathing exercises, you might like to try a Yoga class as at the heart of this exercise is Pranayama (the art of breathing).