The Breath of Life

The Breath of Life

“I am open to receive with every breath I breathe.” Michael Sun

Most of us breathe from the chest and consequently use only around 20 percent of our lung capacity. Chest or shallow breathing reduces energy levels and vitality, and also reduces our resistance to disease.

Our bodies function better when all its cells are receiving a good supply of oxygen, and this is achieved through deep breathing. Regular deep breathing slows the heart rate and improves our cells’ oxygen levels which can bring dramatic changes in our general health, both physically and emotionally. Deep breathing, also called abdominal breathing, is when the abdomen rises when you breathe in and falls when you breathe out.

Deep breathing technique is best practised each day for the promotion of good health and general wellbeing. It is one of the most beneficial things that can be done for both short and long term physical and emotional health and is the single most effective strategy for stress reduction. When you master a deeper breathing pattern, you will notice that your stress levels diminish and your body is more able to relax.

Take note of your breathing at various times during the day, and try to bring your breathing back to abdominal breathing if you notice it has become shallow (i.e. breathing from the chest). With practice, abdominal breathing will become your normal breathing pattern and will assist you in feeling more calm and relaxed.

Deep Breathing Technique

This technique is called ‘4-7-8’ because it refers to the number of counts that you inhale (4 counts), hold the breath (7 counts), and exhale (8 counts). It should be performed twice a day or whenever you feel your anxiety build up. If you do this exercise each morning and evening you will notice how your stress levels start to reduce. You may also notice after a while that your normal breathing pattern is belly (deeper) breathing rather than chest (shallow) breathing and that you have more energy.

When you start this breathing technique, you may not be able to make your breaths very long. Don’t worry – just count faster!  As you become more practised at it, you will be able to count slower, with your breaths becoming longer. Alternatively, you can change the 4-7-8 breath count, keeping it in the same ratio, i.e. exhaling for twice as long as you inhale. Once you feel comfortable with the technique, you can use words to enhance your relaxation. For example, when you inhale, say the word, ‘relax’ or ‘calm’ and when you exhale, say the word ‘stress’ or ‘anger’. This will help to attract the feeling/emotion you wish to take into your body and to release those that you wish to expel.

1.         Sit with your back straight or lie down. Notice what your breathing pattern is like and how you feel before commencing the 4-7-8 breathing technique.

2.         Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind the teeth. Place your hands on your abdomen just below the naval.

3.         Inhale through your nose and breathe into your abdomen for the count of 4. Feel your abdomen rise when you inhale. Hold the breath for the count of 7 or as close to 7 as you can manage comfortably.

4.         Exhale through your mouth, for the count of 8. As you exhale feel your abdomen fall. Imagine your body going loose and limp. As you exhale, gently contract your abdominal muscles to expel remaining air from the lungs.

5.         Repeat 3 – 7 times, whatever you can manage. Notice how your breathing pattern has changed and how you feel now. Aim to achieve a rate of one complete breath (inhaling, holding the breath and exhaling) every 10 seconds or 6 breaths per minute. With practice you will achieve this.

IMPORTANT:   If you become light-headed whilst doing this technique, try not to breathe so deeply. As you become comfortable with your level of breathing you will gradually be able to work up to deeper breathing.

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