You might think breathing is a simple case of in, out, in, out – so easy we do it automatically.
However, a new wellbeing trend – with celebrity devotees including Fearne Cotton, Naomie Harris and Kate Hudson – claims that paying attention to how we breathe can transform our health.
“It’s game-changing. I’ve been visiting a coach for breathwork for a long time and I get so much out of it,” says Fearne.
Good breathing can improve mood, reduce stress and boost energy, as well as helping with health conditions such as asthma and sleep apnea.
And best of all, you can do it anywhere, and it costs nothing.
Being mindful of your breath is an excellent habit to get into.
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“Everybody knows how much food and water they should be consuming on a daily basis but very few people think about the quantity of air they breathe,” says breathing expert Tim Ives, author of LipZip: Breathe Better to Live Better.
Take a moment to sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
Without changing anything, note the way you breathe. Are you breathing through your nose or your mouth? Is it fast or slow? Do you take deep or shallow breaths?
Break bad habits
Now that you’re aware of your breathing, it’s time to change bad habits for good ones.
“The best way to do this is to get your mouth into the right position,” says Tim.
“Relax your face and ensure your tongue is on the roof of your mouth. Your lips should be lightly together, but your teeth should be apart.”
When you’re in this position, take a breath and see how it feels. Are you breathing differently from before?
Slow and steady
Feeling anxious? You’re probably taking short, shallow breaths. “Slow your breathing down, as we all tend to breathe too fast,” says breathwork expert Nahid de Belgeonne (thehumanmethod.co.uk).
“Try to do six breaths a minute, which is six counts in on the inhale and six counts out on the exhale.
“This will rapidly reduce the effects of stress.”
Follow your nose
Not only does breathing through your nose help oxygen reach your muscles – it also helps filter out dust, viruses and bacteria.
“When you breathe through your nose, your sinus cavity produces nitric oxide, which kills viruses and bacteria,” Tim explains.
“What’s more, the nose hairs create a natural filtration system.
“This stops particles such as dust getting into the lungs.”
Go for a breathing walk
“Try going for a walk for 30 minutes each day, and only breathe in and out through your nose,” Tim suggests.
At first, it might seem like you’re getting out of breath or can’t breathe in enough air, but persevere.
This will help you get into healthier breathing habits.
Fill your lungs
“Long, slow breaths into the lower lobes of your lungs will activate the parasympathetic nervous system – the part that is dedicated to resting, digesting food and repairing your body,” says Nahid.
“Your lungs are as long as the space from your collarbones to your last rib and mainly in the back of the body. Imagine breathing into the lower part of the lung, the middle of the lung and the top of the lung on an inhale.
“And as you exhale, empty out from the top, middle and bottom of the lung.”