Before we get into this post let’s get you in the right frame of mind.
Find a comfy seat, or simply get comfy where you are, roll the shoulders, shift a little side to side and now… find some stillness.
Relax your shoulders.
Relax your face, feel the expression melt away as you read these words.
Now take a deep breath in… and open the mouth, let the breath go, like you’re fogging up the glass.
Let’s do two more like that…
Deep breath in and ahhhhh let the breath go.
One more, deep breath in…. and exhale let the breath go.
Let’s check-in, do you feel any different from when you first began reading this post?
Do you feel a little more settled, a little more grounded, a little more present?
You just experienced the most potent healing modality (ever) and you’ve been doing it your entire life… you’ve just been doing it wrong.
Wait, what? (If you want to tune into this episode instead… press below!).
Yes! Breathing, which is usually an unconscious action that naturally occurs due to the intelligence of your body.
Unconscious breathing does enough to keep you alive… but what if you could do so much more with your breath?
And what we’re about to share, is not rocket science. What you’re about to learn can be actioned in under 5 minutes.
These techniques have been practiced for thousands and thousands of years and are now backed by science literally heal your body from the inside out.
We bet you’re thinking but hang on… I breathe all day every day, I don’t need to read anymore. We hear you! Stick with us for a moment longer…
If changing the way you breathe can heal your body, what about the way you’re breathing now? Or the way you were breathing before you started reading this post… what does that do to your body?
We’ll take a wild guess that you’ve been taking short, sharp inhales and exhales for the most of your waking day… and you don’t even know it.
Got shoulder pain? Neck pain? Back pain and headaches? Feel tired? Well, this could be caused by the way you’re breathing.
Most of us (and yes, us included, we ALWAYS catch ourselves breathing super short and sharp) spend the majority of our days breathing only as deep as our chest, sometimes even only up to our collarbones.
This tightens the area of the body physically and that’s why you might feel that achy pain in those parts of the body. Almost like a constricted feeling. You might also feel tired because your brain is simply not getting the oxygen it wants and needs to perform its best.
Picture yourself, responding to your emails every morning, one from your boss or an important client hits your inbox and BAM, stress begins to rise from the inside and with that, a short, sharp breath begins.
And it might stick around for a lot longer than you think. That is until you consciously take a deep belly breath.
Not only does this way of breathing tighten the physical body, this way of breathing and being signals to the body that we are under stress, that we are under attack, and triggers to switch on the Sympathetic Nervous System.
Cortisol is released, the adrenalin starts to pump, we probably feel pretty productive during this moment like we could answer 100 emails in 5 minutes! And then comes the crash of energy and everything else along with it.
With the Sympathetic Nervous System taking over, it means our body can’t do anything else. Our digestion and reproductive systems take the sidelines, our arteries get smaller and our blood thickens. Our brain gets less oxygen and so our thinking starts to get cloudy and decision making is a chore.
And don’t get us wrong, we NEED this (it’s our best friend when we’re in actual danger!) but the question we need to ask is do we need this switched on during a simple, normal day?
Or probably the better question is do we need this switched on… all. the. damn. time?
Have a think about your day. How many times do you notice your heart begin to race, your breath begins to quicken, that rushed feeling begins to happen and the overwhelm takes over?
Our bet… is too often because this is exactly how we used to live our days.
That was until we learned simple, powerful breathing techniques that can change your state of body and mind within just 5 breaths.
What happens when you practice these breathing techniques?
We’ve talked about what happens when you live your days taking short, sharp breaths.
But what happens when you begin to consciously breathe?
You will heal your body
Your body literally begins to heal itself from the inside out. And the main reason why is that by changing your breath, to conscious breathing (and using some of the techniques below) you actually switch ON the Parasympathetic Nervous System. This is our rest and digest system. This is the system that allows the body to repair and restore cells. The system that puts the body back in balance, back to homeostasis (the way the body wants to be).
By breathing deeply using your diaphragm, this physically pumps Lymph fluid through the body which also promotes healing.
The Lymphatic System only works with the body’s motion (unlike the circulatory system which is pumped by the heart), usually through the movement of the body but with the addition of deep breathing you can really stimulate this detoxification and healing system within the body.
No matter what your body might need when it comes to healing, by breathing deeply, the body will begin to have space to do its job. To get you feeling your best and healing your body.
When you breathe deeply it improves your digestion
Not only because your Parasympathetic Nervous System has switched on but the way your diaphragm massages the digestion tract physically helps to move waste through the body. Plus when you breathe deeply, more blood flow occurs which promotes all of your organs to function more effectively.
Taking deep breaths helps you stand taller
As you take deep breaths, notice that at the same time your spine lengthens and straightens. This is because as you take that deep breath, your lungs expand taking up more space, your diaphragm pulls down… and this causing your torso to straighten.
Ahh better posture… yes please!
Deep breathing decreases stress and anxiety
This one is a pretty duh moment as we’ve been talking A LOT about stress and anxiety. Particularly the way you exhale informs the body and mind how to respond. A longer exhale lets the body know that it’s safe to move out of fight or flight and into rest and digest. If there is just one thing you take from this post… take this! Next time you notice the stress rise… focus on lengthening your exhale.
Breathing better will boost your immunity
Especially important for what we’re experiencing now with Covid-19 (but also always). When your blood is fully oxygenated it carries and absorbs nutrients and vitamins way more effectively than when we breathe short and sharp. Meaning that we’re getting what we need to where we need it most within the body.
Yes, all of this happens when you breathe deeply and properly!
So let’s get to the part where we teach you some super simple breathing techniques that you can begin today.
And if you struggle to read and follow, we have 60+ guided meditations (including 5 guided breathwork sessions) inside MerryBody Online Studio… AND we’re about to begin a 14 Day Yoga and Breathwork Challenge for our members, this is the perfect opportunity to delve deep into your Breathwork and really feel the benefits of this powerful, ancient practice.
Extended Exhale Breathing Technique
The simple practice of breathing in for 4 counts and out for 6-8 counts will, within 5 breaths, switch on the relaxation response. That is, the body will feel safe enough to return to balance and into healing mode.
All you need to do is focus on your breath, breathing in and out through the nose if you can.
How to do it: breathe in for 4 counts, breathe out for 6-8 counts.
Repeat 10 times (at least).
You don’t want this to feel uncomfortable or stressful for the body. If 8 counts leaves you feeling breathless and gasping for your next breath, try 6, and then as you get better at breathing deeply, you can extend to 8.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (or, Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit/yogi language)
This breathing technique is known to clear and purify the energy lines of the body. It balances both sides of the brain and the body by taking the body (once again) into the Parasympathetic Nervous System. This technique is widely used for managing stress and feelings of anxiety.
How to do it: find a comfy seat. Place your peace fingers of your right hand onto your third eye (the space between the eyebrows). Allow your left hand to simply rest on your left thigh. You will use your right thumb to block and open the right nostril and your right ring finger to block and open the left nostril.
Take a deep breath in through both nostrils to prepare, and let the breath go.
Block the right nostril, breathe in through the left for 4 counts.
Block the left nostril, breathe out the right nostril for 4 counts.
Breathe in the right nostril for 4 counts.
Block the right nostril, breathe out the left nostril for 4 counts.
That is one round. Complete 8 rounds and ensure your last exhale is out the left nostril.
If you find that one nostril is blocked and it feels really hard to breathe, simply breathe in and out through both nostrils but visualize the breath and energy moving up and down either side of the body and nose.
Extended Breath Technique
Once again, this technique has some serious relaxation power in it.
Begin to breathe in for 4 and out for 4 (in and out through the nose if you can). Then continue to extend all the way going up in counts of 1 until you breathe in for 8 and out for 8.
Keep your inhales and exhales balanced in length. You want to feel like you can still sip in a little extra air with the inhale, so if you feel like you’re struggling, don’t extend it as long. You can build yourself up to it with practice.
Really feel the breath enter and exit the body. Focus on watching the breath with your mind’s eye. Notice your lungs expand and your energy settle.
The main thing to really keep in mind is that you want these techniques to feel good. If you feel like you’re struggling to breathe or gasping for breath, take it back a notch. All will come with practice.
The more you practice these techniques, the more deeply you will be able to breathe.
Next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed, try one of these techniques, train your mind and body to calm itself by controlling the breath.
And if you want our help with building your Breathwork practice…. our 14 Day Yoga and Breathwork Challenge is for you!
When you join we will guide you through 14 days of Online Yoga, Meditation, and Breathwork sessions.
Do this from the comfort of wherever you are and whenever you want.
You will deepen the connection to yourself with these amazing, life-transforming practices and feel your love for life grow and expand.
Learn more about MerryBody here.
Always remember you have your breath.
In the moments when you catch your mind racing, when you’re busy going over your to-do list, when you’re feeling guilty, angry, frustrated, impatient about the past, present or future… allow yourself to feel all of that but also remind yourself to come back to the breath.
Feel the breath enter the body and really feel the breath leave the body.
Be with your breath and just notice the sensations going on.
The ancient yogis believe that when we have control of the breath, we can have (some) control of the mind. We can reign in the monkey mind that loves to jump about. And in doing so, create peace, comfort, and ease in our present moment (the only moment where life itself exists).
The best thing? Is that you’ve been breathing your whole life. All you need to do now is bring a little awareness to HOW you breathe.
Emma + Carla