Breath is precious. It is our life force. The way we breathe can help us to feel calm and relaxed or energised and uplifted. Breathing has many benefits including lowering blood pressure, managing chronic pain, reducing feelings of despondency or depression, it can help control the heart rate and manage illness and injuries to name a few. And when we focus and do intentional ‘breath work’ we can regulate our breath, calm the monkey brain and become more aware and fully present.
There are many different breath work techniques and there is not really any right or wrong to do it. Our ancestors have used the breath as a way to energise, heal and moderate through the Vedas, Yoga masters, shamanic cultures, martial arts and spiritual practices.
One of my most favourite techniques is the 4-7-8 Pranayama breath work. This forces the mind and body to focus on regulating the breath rather than letting the chatter in the mind take over. Many describe it as a natural tranquilliser or anaesthetic.
To practice the 4-7-8 technique first get comfortable in an upright position or lying so you can relax. Prepare by resting your tongue into the roof of your mouth inside the back of your top front teeth. Your tongue will not move the entire process and this may take a little practice.
Then you breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds.
Hold the breath for 7 seconds.
Then gently part the lips and breathe out through the mouth for 8 seconds.
You can repeat this for 10, 20 or my favourite is 30 rounds. It takes about 10minutes.
We are really only beginning to learn how breathing pace, duration and intensity can impact us mentally, emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually.
Breathwork can help us switch between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems as well as effectively awakening and activating the vagus nerve which is a bundle of nerves that connects nearly every element of our body from our brain all the way down to our spine. We pump more oxygen into this bundle of nerves which allows them to work in a more optimal way.
There are two main types of breath work – activation to help boost and energise and restoration to help calm and relax.
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