Conscious Breathing Exercises
Could breathwork be a part of your daily routine? It turns out that many of us are doing it wrong! I was oblivious to my constant mouth breathing until recently. As a long time sufferer of sinus problems, it had become second nature. Waking up with a dry mouth, parched was everyone’s experience, right? As I began to increase my awareness on this matter, I soon learnt that mornings didn’t have to be that way!
After reading James Nestor’s Breathe the lost science and art of breathing, I now realise the negative impacts that it has. According to his research mouth breathing is linked to negative impacts on our immune function, weight and ability to sleep well.
Our nose is the body’s natural filter, which heats and kindly treats the air for us. Through this process we breath deep breaths as opposed to the shallow breathing that’s associated with mouth breathing. Shallow breathing is associated with tension in the upper body and increased stress. There are many ways we can rectify this habit, one of which is to use nasal breathing strips.
There is so much evidence to suggest that we need to focus on how we breathe and learn how to exhale and inhale slowly. Our ideal breath is 5.5 breaths per minute. This also correlates with prayers in many religions, that were consciously or unconsciously timed to a slow healing breath rate.
Our ancient ancestors had to gnaw on bones for hours which lead them to have much sturdier jaws, and larger mouths. Our facial structure’s have evolved to be narrower, due to the level of processed foods that us and the generations before us have been eating. Our mushy processed food has resulted in much shorter chewing time and our busy lives also cause us to rush our food down. However, all is not lost, we can still improve our mouth size and improve our breathing by chewing more.
How many of you inhale your food mindlessly, whilst scrolling on your phone? Slowing down the process of eating and ensuring that each morsel of food is well chewed, will give your body a better chance at breathing more. So, not only is mindful eating important to our mental health, it’s essential for our physical wellbeing too.
There are many suggested breathing practices within his book, each worthy of their own blog piece alone. He explores the benefits of buteyko, Wim Hoff method, Tumo and many more conscious breath practices.
Conscious breath work stimulates the vagus nerve and helps activate our parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part that allows us to fully rest and digest. Breathing through your nose can therefore help reduce your anxiety, and improve your sleep. Nasal breathing can also correct hyperventilation, which causes low levels of blood carbon dioxide- which is a trigger for panic attacks. Everything that we can do to breath better and rest more, will be a conscious step towards healing the nervous system.
Try out these breathing exercises below to see if they could be a part of your mental health toolkit. There are many pillars to good mental health and breath work is a foundational piece.
Nestor, James (2020) Breath. The new science of a lost art.
Patterson, Jennifer (2020) The Power of Breathwork: Simple Practices to Promote Wellbeing
Wim Hof Method Guided Breathing for Beginners