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  • Writer's pictureNicky Lloyd Greame

Just Breathe

Did you know there are different types of breathing? As weird as that sounds, many people who are stressed or anxious breathe in a way which actually makes their feelings of overwhelm and anxiety feel worse and last longer – and a simple adjustment can allow those breaths to work magic and transform you from tense and anxious to relaxed and calm.

The first thing to remember about breathing is that it has a function – to provide our bloodstream and body with the oxygen every single cell needs to survive. It helps control the gas ratio (Oxygen/Carbon Dioxide) in the blood and ensures that exchange is as constant and consistent as possible.

We also lose water and fluid through our breathing (between 300 – 500 millilitres a day normally) so if you spend a lot of time breathing rapidly then this increases the risk of dehydration therefore another reason for your body to respond by triggering stress chemicals… this can then become a vicious cycle.

Whilst breathing does happen naturally and unconsciously, developing your breathing techniques and lung capacity can benefit your health in so many ways – like exercising a muscle - it always good to practice these things well before you need them if you can.

Here are just 3 simple breathing exercises you can introduce to help you (or even the students in your classes) stay more calm and relaxed.

CO2 Breathing – for Anxiety/Hyperventilation

Shallow & rapid breathing is a response, generally triggered by fear, anxiety or exertion, aimed at increasing oxygen levels in the blood on the assumption we need it. When this goes on for too long it can get ‘out of control’ and result in Hyperventilation, causing feelings of nausea and dizziness. Chemically speaking, this is caused by a lack of CO2 (not oxygen as is commonly believed). To counteract this and regain control it is important to try and increase your CO2 levels. Here's how:

  • Cup your hands over your mouth (or use an empty paper bag - no receipts!! :-))

  • Keep breathing in and out - trying to take a deeper breath each time (counting sometimes helps) - focussing more on the outbreathe

  • Continue this until you feel your breathing has returned to manageable

Relaxation 456

Controlled breathing with the intent of relaxation can help reduce high-stress levels, putting you in a more resourceful state.

  • Find a quiet place to sit - with a straight back & feet flat on the ground

  • Breath in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 5 seconds and exhale for 6

  • Repeat for minimum of 5 times (building up to 10 or more) - you can also start at a higher number and build up that way too (eg 678)

  • Do this several times a day for maximum benefit

Double Inhale Breathing

This technique works well for instantly calming the nervous system down - but it does take some practice.

  • Find a quiet place to sit - with a straight back & feet flat on the ground

  • Place hand over stomach (covering belly button)

  • Take a deep breath in through your nose

  • Hold for 1 second then take another short inhalation to ‘top’ the deep breath up (as if you are snorting something up your nose)

  • Exhale slowly (through the mouth or the nose)

  • Repeat until you feel calmer


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