We breathe 20 to 30 THOUSAND times a day.  That’s a lot of chances to feel better!  Here are some simple ways to improve your breathing, from Jen Tiller’s ‘Personal Best’ programme, combining the clinically proven Buteyko Method and a range of practical techniques for relaxation and mindfulness.

Notice what you’re doing. Are your shoulders relaxed and still?  Is your posture upright?   Is your mouth closed?  Is your breathing silent?   If yes, that’s good!  If not, there’s some work to do! 

Breathe quietly through your nose – yes, in AND out, all the time except when speaking or eating etc.  It reduces over-breathing, filters out dust and pollen, prevents loss of moisture from the mouth (important during exercise), warms air before it reaches the throat in winter, and adds tiny amounts of Nitric Oxide to the oxygen which improves oxygen uptake into the lungs.  Good breathing is slow, gentle, silent breathing – it’s efficient, and it feels good!  If you put a finger under your nose, notice how much ‘breeze’ you feel on the out breath.  If you slow down the out breath, over time you can end up just feeling a slight warmth – this is ideal when you are at rest.  BLOCKED NOSE?  Breathe out, pause, and wait a few seconds.  Repeat.  Often the inflammation in your nose will reduce enough to create a small opening in the airways.  As much as possible, use your nose to breathe – USE IT OR LOSE IT!

Use diaphragm breathing.  The most efficient breathing is done in the lowest part of the chest and belly – think of the way a healthy baby breathes.  Since you can’t MAKE the diaphragm muscle do anything consciously (it’s made of the same material as your heart) you can actively use the abdominal muscles, creating a very efficient bellows.  It increases relaxation, improves digestive through-put, and strengthens the lower back!

As you breathe in, gently expand the stomach muscles.  As you breathe out, contract them towards the spine.  If you need a little help, lie flat with a book on your abdomen.  Actively pushing it up (breathing in) and letting it drop (breathing out) will help you feel what you’re doing.    Alternatively, stand in front of a mirror, with your fingers a couple of inches below the belly button.  As you breathe OUT, try pulling your stomach back towards your spine, firmly pushing your fingers to follow the movement.  Have the fingers there when breathing IN, and push the fingers forward with the muscles.  It will give your body a point of reference, and will soon become easy and natural.  Breathe very gently. In this case, big is NOT better!  Some regular practice and your body will begin to breathe this way automatically.  When that’s easy, repeat the process using the lowest set of abdominal muscles, just above the pubic bone.

Reduce your breathing rate: take a short pause after breathing OUT.   It will relax you and if done regularly, will soon accustom the body to a slower breathing cycle.  Start with whatever you can do easily, and build up over time, even if it’s only occasional.  Eventually you might be able to do a few seconds after every breath..  Pay attention to the feeling of calm that naturally occurs in the pause.  Aim for 10 or less GENTLE breaths per minute.

Think “ gently breathe In.. slowly Out….. Rest………gently breathe In…slowly  Out…….Rest……”

When moving yourself or lifting anything, try to do it, or at least begin it, in a pause after breathing OUT.  It will feel easier, and help prevent overbreathing.  So – Breathe out, lift (yourself or an object!), breathe in.
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