We are tired. We are constantly under pressure. We work or study so hard. We are trying to run from time desperately hoping to get some more minutes to do more in a day. We are so stressed! What can we do about it?! We have to stop and breathe in.
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Stress is an inseparable part of our life and nobody can avoid it. People go to psychologists, take special medicines or even drink alcohol. Such methods may help, but they will not keep the results for a long time. Moreover, medicines and alcohol may affect our health in an opposite way. We try to use a lot of methods to escape stress, but we do not notice a really effective method that is literary under our nose. It is our breath.
Meaning of breathing
Breathing is a unique function of the human’s organism. It is the second most important process in our body after the work of our heart. One can live a month without having any food, a week without drinking any water, and only a couple of minutes without breathing.
Breathing is perhaps the only vegetative function that can be under control of our consciousness. We can control our breathing and as a result produce a certain effect on our organism.
The combination of inhales and exhales also influences a person’s mood. Do you remember the way you breathe when you feel down? You make a deep inhale and a long exhalation (so-called sigh). And do you remember how athlete breathe before a competition? They make short, energetic exhalations. Thus, our psychological state is reflected in the way we breathe and it can also be changed the way we breathe; we can change our mood.
Breath vs Stress
Control of breathing is perhaps the oldest known method of relieving emotional stress. Controlled breathing or being more precise in using different breathing techniques is the basic principle of hatha yoga. Such techniques are called “pranayama”, which means control, or containment of breathing. Also, controlled breathing is the main component of such “arts of breathing” as Tai Ci and Kung Fu. Controlled breathing is an important part of these martial arts. It helps to keep balance and to have your emotions under control.
Belisa Vranich, a US clinical psychologist, in her book Breathe calls controlled breathing a meditation for those who do not know how to meditate. In the book she teaches how to breathe correctly. She says that most people breathe in a wrong way, they breathe with the upper part of their chest. When we are stressed, we begin to breathe quickly and superficially. But our brain does not get enough oxygen if we breathe in such a way and, as a result, it slows down. Belisa Vranich writes that the right breath is horizontal breath. It means that you should control your breath and breathe using the lower part of the chest. She explains that you need to expand your stomach during an inhalation through the nose and draw it in during the exhalation.
Breathe to change your life
The research of the technique of controlled breathe conducted in 2016 proved that there is a connection between the way we breathe and the way we feel. The results showed that 12 weeks of yoga combined with controlled breathing helped people to cope with stress better, it improved their mood and even their health.
In another research published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine a group of 103 people had to practice yogic breathing exercises for 6 weeks. The results showed that after the course they felt much better, the degree of anxiety and depression lowered significantly and their attitude to life was more optimistic than before.
No doubts our world moves so fast that we cannot escape being stressed. But we do not have to wait for the world to slow down; we have to slow down ourselves and take a deep breath. Controlled breathing is a great method to calm down in a stressful situation, to deal with depression and to improve your health. And when you are under pressure next time, remember: keep calm and breathe!