Breathing is an amazing thing. It’s something you probably take for granted most of the time. After all, your body gets on with breathing for you whenever you’re not thinking about it.
Yet you also have the power to breathe consciously. And when you do, you open up a world of possibilities and benefits.
There are now literally thousands of studies in peer reviewed journals exploring the mechanisms and uses of various breathing practices. Differences have been shown not just between exhale, inhale and holding breath, but also between breathing in through different nostrils. Then there are the questions of the timing of breath and the ratios between inhale, exhale and pauses.
For example, inhaling activates more the sympathetic nervous system, the part that helps you to take action. Exhaling is more restful and calming, activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Obviously, you have to breath in and out, but where you place the emphasis changes your physiology: your body’s responses.
Breathing consciously is also an important part of mindfulness. Focusing on the breath is a portal into what is sometimes called interoception: feeling into your inner world. Calm breathing not only regulates your inner rhythms, it also allows you to become more conscious of them. You can become more aware of the feelings and sensations in your body, as well as noticing more the thoughts that float across your mind. This is a great way to get a little perspective on these things, realising that they are constantly changing, but that you can stay calm whatever is going on within you.
Another beautiful practice is to add tapping to your mindful breathing. This boosts your level of calm, and helps to melt away tension and negative thinking. It is also great for times when you are upset but can’t put words to how you feel. Give it a try following this video: