Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
Doing something on average 25,000 times a day for years should make you an expert, one would think. As newborns, we are masters at deep (diaphragmatic) breathing right out of the gates. By age 5, and certainly once we reach adulthood, our breathing technique diminishes to a state of shallow breathing. We have forgotten how to breathe.
Due to an avalanche of environmental toxins and life stressors, we become unaware of our shallow breathing while on autopilot as we move from one thing to the next. This unnatural state of being constantly engaged in “fight or flight” mode is detrimental to the respiratory, muscular, cardiovascular, digestive, psychic and nervous systems.
This mode is also known as the sympathetic nervous system which is an automatic response that is activated when we are in danger. Our ancestors literally did one or the other, physically fight or flee the scene when threatened. Undomesticated animals still do this. To make matters worse, we have been conditioned to “grin and bear it” when it comes to encountering stressful or unpleasant situations. While maintaining one’s composure is commendable, if it is superficial, the body is still in a state of hyper arousal - drawing quick and shallow breaths long after. For the majority of the population, this is the ongoing norm day in and out. No wonder there is such a demand for relaxation, meditation and sleep music.
The way we breathe is often an overlooked trigger (and solution) to many states of dis-ease. The late, well respected and published Dr. Arthur C. Guyton was quoted as saying “all chronic pain, suffering, and diseases are caused by a lack of oxygen at the cell level.”
Now is the time to improve and course correct the single most important activity in our lives - which is breathing. Your quality of life and blood pressure depends on it. Music does too. Imagine funk bands without the brass or relaxation music without the wind section! The best way to breathe is from your diaphragm (the muscle beneath your rib cage) and through the nose if possible.
How to do basic diaphragmatic/deep breathing?
(For best results play a calming music channel from the Relaxation, Meditation, Wellness or Classical Music sections of Calm Radio).
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.
- Inhale for 3 seconds, pushing the breath downwards – abdomen should extend.
- Exhale for 3 seconds.
- Repeat this sequence as often as possible for as long as you can, this can be done sitting or standing).
…it’s that simple!
Deliberately resetting with deep mindful proper breathing can help us move on especially when something is resolved, unlocking the holding pattern of shallow breathing that is linked to a cyclical storm of symptoms ranging from anxiety, to insomnia and even bad breath or a dry throat. Think of how a pilot readjusts a plane out of turbulence. The same can be done by taking a few deep breaths properly to relax our mind and body.
Now, will always be your opportunity to come back to awareness and stop being hijacked by the chronic stress and anxiety of modern life. It can be done in a few simple steps by you. Nothing to install or upload, only your focus is required. The more often you are aware, the better. It has been proven that calming music can almost immediately get you into a state of relaxation and meditation – the aid of wellness music therefore will help you fast track if you find you are easily distracted at first as most people are considering our devices have become our prosthetics.
So what is proper breathing?
Proper breathing can relax muscles, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, prevent panic attacks, improve digestion, induce sleep, and provide a general anchor to a state of calm. Proper breathing can also be manipulated to increase your energy levels, assist in concentration and support physical exertion. Use your lungs to lift more weight easily or finally run that marathon! Psychologically it can expand your ability to manage emotions and control the mind. How many times has losing your cool cost you? An oxygenated mind can elevate you to greater heights and better, clearer decisions.
There are 5 characteristics of proper breathing according to the Himalayan Institute:
- Deep – from the diaphragm, your abdomen (not chest) will expand when inhaling and flatten when exhaling.
- Smooth – in the process, naturally there may be moments when breath feels rough from clearing toxins or finding a rhythm.
- Even – even ratio in duration and quality on inhale and exhale. Equal parts of nourishing on the way in and cleansing on the way out.
- Continuous – striving towards an uninterrupted cycle between inhale and exhale, reducing strain on the heart.
- Quiet – if breathing to relax, quiet breath will reflect the quieting of the mind.
Take a deep breath… Exhale.
While the modern world has been fueling itself on caffeinated energy drinks and steering through life on overdrive with a white knuckle grip – Yogis, Taoists and similar spiritual sects have been cultivating the practice of breath work as an active meditation and form of both preventative and curative medicine for thousands of years.
If you’ve ever gotten excited about a kale salad or taken a yoga or Tai Chi class, the terms “Prana” which means breath in Sanskrit or “Qi” or “Ch’i” which are the equivalent and translate into “air” or “life force” in Chinese, might sound familiar.
During a traffic jam, a visit to the dentist, on a red eye flight or right before a company presentation is not a realistic time to roll out a yoga mat to calm your nerves. You can however, practice deep breathing and play one of our meditation or relaxing music channels to send a signal to your nervous system that you are calm and not running from a grizzly bear by taking a few moments to focus on your breath.
Over time and with a bit of practice you’ll be sure to experience a lasting positive impact on your health if not a sense of calm and relaxation in the moment.
Simple tips to find calm and improve your breathing throughout day:
- Focus on your breath at least 1 minute of every hour.
- Try diaphragmatic breathing while walking the dog, commuting or scrubbing the dishes.
- Get to sleep faster by making this a bed time ritual while lying down.
- Use Calm Radio - an extensive selection of Wellness, Meditation and Sleep music channels specifically to support your journey to better breathing.
Discover the hundreds of channels we have for relaxation and sleep music.
Try the Qi or Yoga Retreat channel in the Wellness section as inspiration from the great teachers if you want to venture East. Our Calming Classical music channel is also a great option for all generations and occasions.
My late grandmother Mitzi, who enjoyed the songs of birds and classical music would always call after her children as they left the house for school… shouting, “Don’t forget!....” my mother would turn around with question marks in her eyes every time… “to breathe” she’d say with a smile.
The most powerful mechanism for relaxation and good health is in your personal tool box. It is the toolbox.
Change the way you breathe, change your life.