Breathe a little bit of calm into the madness around you with the help of Third Space Master Trainer, Clare Walters
The world is a stressful place right now, and though many of us know we need to work to protect our mental health, knowing where to start can be difficult. Beginning a mindfulness practice can sometimes seem a little overwhelming, particularly if the mind is very busy. But the most effective starting point is a simple one. Using your breath is one of the most efficient ways to slow the mind and relax the body.
When we control and regulate our breath, it has a direct impact on our autonomic nervous system which controls our involuntary bodily functions and is split into two branches, the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response).
When we take deep breaths into our belly, we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system via the vagus nerve. The parasympathetic nervous system works to dampen the effects of the sympathetic by slowing the heart rate, decreasing blood pressure, diverting blood supply to the digestive and reproductive organs, and overriding the release of cortisol and adrenaline. This is what chills you out. While the effects are primarily short term, studies have shown that a regular breathwork practice can result in long term changes to blood pressure, resting heart rate and respiratory rate.
Not only this, but further research has shown that breath-based mindfulness practices affect both connectivity in the brain and the balance of neurotransmitters which can decrease symptoms of anxiety, regulate emotions and improve sleep quality.
Exhale the stress of your day with these techniques.
Practice 1 – Diaphragmatic Breath
- Place one hand on the belly and one hand on the chest. Close your eyes and close your mouth. Allow the breath to flow in and out through the nose.
- To begin with just notice where you feel the breath. Which part of the torso expands on your inhale?
- Start to direct the breath towards the hand on your belly so that the belly inflates on the inhale and softens back towards the spine on the exhale.
- Aim to regulate the timing, inhaling for a count of 4, exhaling for 4.
Practice 2 – Box Breath
Staying with the diaphragmatic breath, box breath encourages us to slow the breath down by introducing breath retention.
- Inhale for 4
- Hold the breath for 4
- Exhale for 4
- Hold the end of the exhale for 4
*disclaimer – Breath retention is usually advised against during pregnancy and for anyone experiencing high blood pressure.
Practice 3 – 2:1 Breath
The idea of 2:1 breath is for the exhale to be double the length of the inhale.
- Find the diaphragmatic breath once again
- Start by inhaling for 2 and exhaling for 4
- Then inhale for 3, exhale for 6
- Inhale for 4, exhale for 8 and so on.
- Find a rhythm you can maintain without too much force or effort.