We are hosting our first breathwork event this week and so I thought what better topic for my blog than the breath itself!
I have always been a huge fan of Ashtanga Yoga and practice as often as I can. Although our amazing instructor is now travelling the world and I’m yet to find a replacement! I’ve got to admit, as much as I LOVE the sessions, whenever we would reach Savasana and the instructor would start talking about “the breath”, I would roll my eyes and switch off. I mean, I was here to work out, why the hell did I want to waste ten minutes laid on the floor just breathing?! Surely it would be better use of my time to do an extra ten minutes or exercise? But, I’m not a total d*ck, so I sucked it up and joined in!
I appreciated that breathing was important during the actual practice but couldn’t see why it would matter once we had stopped moving. My default position had always been fairly rational and so I really didn’t buy into the whole “woo fitness”.
Breathwork and meditation fell right into this category for me and I had no interest in, what I thought, was wasting time that could be spent working out.
It wasn’t till I started doing research on breathing mechanics as part of my Exercise Rehab masters, that I stumbled across some papers that fascinated me. Specifically in relation to breathing and the pelvic floor! Now, there was something to demand my attention. Suddenly, I could see past my own bias (and yes I know, arrogance) . I finally allowed myself to consider that actually, maybe it wasn’t ‘woo’ at all. Maybe I was a total d*ick for being so dismissive. Maybe I was completely wrong about just how important the breath actually is.
Although I had started spending more time reading and researching papers on the importance of breathing. I still hadn’t considered my own breathing. After all, I was in fitness, worked out regularly and had a pretty decent V02 max – surely my breathing was great?!
It wasn’t until I was looking for somewhere to take my friend for her birthday and wanted to find something a bit different. Some might say it was the universe……. I say it was the bots that had been trawling my search engine history! But, my feed suddenly became filled with post on breathwork and they all pointed to one account. Breatheolution.
Here was a business solely focused on the breath and by the reviews and engagement online – Kevin was pretty amazing at it. I decided to open my mind and give it a go. After all, I now had some scientific evidence to back it up!
On the morning of the session, Kevin said something that really struck a chord with me and it’s something I have thought a lot about since:
“Breath is the first thing we do coming into this life, breath is the last thing we do leaving this life, and breath regulates everything in between”
It really made me think about how we all take breathing for granted and that we never really give any thought as to whether we are doing it right or wrong. Yes I was fit and healthy, but I’d never really given much focus to how I breathe. Actually, that’s a lie – it turns out during those “woo” Savasana’s , unbeknown to me, they had been teaching me how to breathe correctly. And according to Kevin, who said I was a nasal breather, they had done a pretty good job of teaching me too!
Nose V Mouth
Breathing through the nose is actually the way our bodies were designed. In fact, I read a funny anecdote online that breathing through your mouth is about as practical as trying to eat through your nose! Why does no one tell us this stuff?
I mean, I can work out the area of a circle, even a bit of trigonometry. Yet I had no idea that we shouldn’t be breathing through our mouths!
Breathing in and out through the nose actually enables us to take fuller, deeper breaths. It is these much deeper breaths that stimulate the lower part of our lung. This then allows our blood to distribute greater amounts of oxygen throughout the body. If that wasn’t enough of a reason to “shut your mouth”. Deep breathing also activates the vagus nerve, which is like the boss of our parasympathetic nervous system. The vagus nerve can impact things like our mood, digestion, heart rate, sleep and calmness.
Breathing through the mouth and chest, on the other hand, stimulates the upper part of our lungs. This prompts us to hyperventilate and can trigger a sympathetic response. This is ultimately our fight or flight reaction – the stress response!
How do you know if you are a mouth breather?
You may be a “mouth breather” if you experience any of the following:
- Sleeping with your mouth open.
- Itchy nose.
- Drooling while sleeping, or noticing drool on your pillow upon waking.
- Nocturnal sleep problems or agitated sleep.
- Nasal obstruction.
- Irritability during the day.
Chronic mouth breathing can lead to not only a myriad of oral issues, but also problems with the digestive system, chronic fatigue, headaches and chronic stress! Who knew breathing the wrong way could actually have such significant side effects?
What can we do?
Breathing is one of those things we can all improve and it doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult. I would start with spending a few minutes each day practicing slow, deep breathing to get your body used to moving out of our Fight/Flight Response and into “Rest/Digest”.
Although it seems small, giving your nervous system that break once or twice each day can make a huge difference.
If you want some support with how to put this into practice, why not book onto our Breathwork session tomorrow.