Updated: May 1
Over the coming weeks we will be looking at connection - connection to self, our surroundings and each other. So what better way to kick-off this new month with a brilliant blog written by the beautiful breathwork specialist, Aimee Hartley!
Aimee Hartley is the founder of The Breathing Room www.thebreathingroom.co.uk, School Breathe programme www.schoolbreathe.com and Author of Breathe Well. She is a breath coach, Yoga Teacher and mum of two. Aimee has been teaching for over 10 years and uses her in-depth knowledge of breathing patterns and breath exercises to teach people the infinite healing qualities of a full healthy breath. So let's take a moment and learn to connect with our breath.
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And Breathe... Breathwork for Balance, Calm & Sleep
By Aimee Hartley
As you are reading these words, do you notice any tension in the jaw? Is your posture slightly compromised? Bring awareness to your next breath and notice how you feel.
Now gently create space within your posture, elongate your spine, lifting between your sitting bones and shoulders, move your chin up slightly and allow there to be a small gap between top and bottom teeth, keeping the lips closed. Now breathe in through the nose slowly, then dropping the shoulders, breathe out through the mouth long, deep sigh. Then become aware of how you feel.
The way you breathe influences how you feel in your body, your mind and how you interact within your environment. The rhythm, pace and depth of your breath can have a ripple effect on every physical system of your body, from the pH in our blood when you wake up, to the quality of your sleep as dream at night.
Luckily and quite remarkably, we can change the way we breathe to transform the way we feel.
Here are some scientifically proven breath techniques to help you find balance, feel calm, and prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep, by changing the way you breathe.
Breathing to Find Balance
Each feeling you experience, from happiness to fear, creates its own unique breath pattern. Have you ever noticed that you hold your breath when you are in shock, or your breath quickens when you are feeling anxious? And when you are relaxed, you may notice that you’re breathing at a fuller, slower pace. This is not a coincidence. When you are calm, your nervous system is in a relaxed stated, and your breath rate slows down. When your experience feelings like fear and anxiety, this makes the rhythm of the breath a more staccato pace, short and sharp – this is your body’s fight or flight, or your sympathetic nervous system in action.
When we breathe well, at a normal, natural pace, using the diaphragm fully and consistently breathing (both in and out) through the nose, the body maintains healthy levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen. Your feelings are intrinsically linked to your physiology. When you feel anxious, you may over breathe and this lowers levels of carbon dioxide which in turn, can make you feel dizzy, lightheaded, your heart can race. To help us feel balanced, whether in body or mind, we can simply create a balanced paced between our inhales and exhales. Box breathing is great for this.
Breathe in for 1…2….3….4….
Hold the breath for 1….2….3….4….
Breathe out for 1…2….3….4….
Hold the breath out for 1…2….3….4….
Repeat this for up to 5 minutes and notice how you feel.
Breathwork to Find Calm
To find feelings of calm through our breath can be achieved by first further understanding the pace and effects of our breath. When we are anxious, things are normally at a fast, high pace, from our breathing to our heart rate, to how we feel. To bring a moment of calm to this internal chaos, we can simply slow the breath rate down to a slower gear. Our inhale activates the sympathetic nervous system, and our exhale activates the parasympathetic nervous system so by extending our exhalation, we increase the amount of time we experience the parasympathetic nervous state.
Allow the jaw to be relaxed (lips closed with space between top and bottom teeth) and if seated, the posture to be light and lifted.
Breathe in through the nose for a count of 5
Breathe out through the nose for a count of 7
Breathwork for Better Sleep
The National Library of Medicine has found that: “There is empirical support that breathing at a frequency of 0.1 Hz (6 breaths per minute) is the most effective rate to combat insomnia as this rate initiates Cardiorespiratory Synchronization and has been demonstrated to enhance parasympathetic activity. Practicing the 0.1 Hz rate before sleep was shown to improve sleep onset latency and quality in insomniacs and enhance the stability of their sleep pattern approximately six breaths per minute. At this rate of frequency, your heart rate and breathing rate eventually sync up, which helps your body produce your highest HRV (Heart Rate Variability) levels.”
Practicing breathwork before you sleep is paramount to guarantee you nod off with ease and you enjoy a better quality of shut-eye. I would suggest a breath practice of between 10 – 15 minutes. And bring your breath rate down to 6 breaths per minute. You may need to build up slowly to this if you feel like this breath count is a struggle. Breathwork should always feel easy. It’s simply breathing through the nose for 5 seconds and then breathing out through the nose for 5 seconds (or a count of 5:5) This will help slow the breath rate down to 1 breath (1 inhale + 1 exhale) = 10 seconds. Repeating this 6 times will encourage the breath into a 6 breaths per minute ratio. Always breathe (both inhale and exhale) through the nose and encourage the lower abdomen to rise on the inhale.