BREATH 101 - the benefits
I’ve extolled the virtues of the breath for almost twenty years now. It began when I started practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga daily at 5.30am. There’s always been a deep belief in me that learning how to breathe better and practising this as much as possible is really good for us. I also firmly believe that most of us have become disconnected to our bodies and let our minds run the show. Breathing better and practising breathwork in the same way you might do with meditation or the gym, helps us redress this balance and gets us back into a healthier relationship with our bodies.
We’ve known about the power of the breath for thousands of years. From the Egyptians to the Indians to the Chinese to the Americans – countries, religions and practices such as yoga, all have their variations. At the end of the day, they each have the same goal and that is to bring you into greater alignment and point you back in the direction of optimum health and wellbeing and giving us greater emotional clarity – and who wouldn’t want that right now? Yet whilst this is true, it is also true that for millions of people, the breath is that automatic action that requires no thought or consideration. If that’s you, you’re missing a trick. A big trick.
But there are literally hundreds of types of breathwork out there, so how do you choose which one is right for you? I’ve not tried them all, but I’ve tried quite a few and found myself coming back to one that incorporated, what I felt, the most flow, Conscious Connected Breath. The technique helps you access greater lung capacity and puts the body into an autopilot reset mode. What does that mean? Well, imagine putting your phone back to factory settings when things have gone awry, that’s what Conscious Breath does. It creates the conditions for healing to occur.
Like most good breathing techniques, you probably won’t master it right away, but like all good things in life, the practice you put in, will pay off 100 times over. I know that because I’ve experience it first-hand for myself. And if you decide to try a session with me either in a group workshop or 1-1, you’ll learn how to do it for yourself. In the meantime, here are some yoga facts you might like to read.
1. Yoga was not always the series of postures you see now, but actually a breath practice, holding one pose and breathing into areas of the body to open it up. It’s only in the last 100 years that modern yoga has begun incorporating postures into the practice.
2. There are literally hundreds of different types of breath practices. In yogic tradition alone, there are over 400. Most yogic breathing is about breath retention and control. You may have heard of Wim Hof’s for example, his method is a form of Pranayama, or ‘breath control’ method.
3. There are breath methods to enable your body to relax and others to heighten your state, or ‘stress’ your body — both are hugely beneficial for you. The idea that stressing your body is good for you may seem surprising, but it works in a similar way that ‘stressing’ your body does during sea swimming or a cold shower (often known as cold-water immersion). Positive stressors, or ‘eustress’, are actually good for your body. Eustress is a product of the nerves, and can emerge from experiencing exciting things, such as receiving a promotion at work, starting a new job, or taking a trip that you’re really excited about. It generates feelings of excitement, wellbeing, and satisfaction. When you challenge yourself, eustress makes you feel confident and motivated — one more reason to keep challenging yourself throughout life.
4. Breathwork and better breathing helps with so many different ailments and conditions — both mental and physical. It helps hugely with anxiety and depression and I experience this personally on a daily basis. Whilst I don’t suffer with depression as such, two weeks solo quarantine, a lockdown, a total annihilation of my travel business during 2020 and the general collective fear in the air this year would suggest a mental struggle of some significance. But I’ve been able to operate almost as normal throughout this time and I put this 100% down to my Breathwork practice.
5. Lowering blood pressure, boosting the autoimmune system, improving circulation. You name it, most types of Breathwork will help in a variety of positive ways. I suffered from Raynaud’s Disease (a type of vascular disorder which for me meant very poor circulation and often alarming blue fingers when I got cold) which did not go well with my love of sea swimming. Yet since having a regular breath practice each morning, in the same way people might build meditation into their early morning routine, it has totally disappeared.
If you'd like to watch some videos I've created on the subject of breath just click here.
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