You are always breathing. More than likely you will not be always aware of this. Breathing is the only function you can do consciously and unconsciously. Most people do not know how to breathe properly, but you can learn to regulate and develop your breathing to improve your overall wellbeing.
You may never pay attention to it unless you are experiencing a health problem or are starting a health regime like yoga.
Breathing has direct connections to your emotional wellbeing, and breathing patterns can change with emotional moods, from rapid to shallow, noisy and irregular. If you are upset or stressed, your breathing is rapid and irregular. You cannot be upset with slow, deep, flowing breaths.
You cannot change your emotions at will, but you can change your breathing to a slower, even quiet level, and which your mood will follow.
Breathing exercises can have an effect on the way the body functions and on subconscious action such as pain. Breathing correctly can result in relaxation of the body and, in particular, relaxation of the muscles in the back. So, breathing exercises can be a simple method to target and treat chronic and lower back pains. Once you are breathing-aware, you will have more control over your life, be more aware of your body and the impact it has over many aspects of your life.
If you suffer from periods of stress, anxiety or panic related attacks, then it becomes very important to understand how your breathing influences you, and how it can also alleviate anxiety, and emotional, mental, and physical health symptoms.
There is a tendency to hold our breath, leading to more shallow breathing, and tighten our abdominal muscles when in situations of anxiety or agitation, or pain.
A calm mind leads to calm deep breathing, and these techniques can be learned in simple breathing exercises to programme yourself to a calmer relaxed state again. Breathing exercises are a treatment for back pain if you like.
To check you are breathing in the correct manner place one hand over your abdomen and the other hand on your chest. Take deep breaths to see which rises higher. If the hand on your abdomen rises higher than the hand on your chest you are breathing correctly. This simple exercise determines if you are breathing in a correct way, and that your diaphragm takes enough air into the body.
Here is another exercise to aid deep, even breathing (this is good to do when upset or anxious). Breath in deeply, taking in as much air as possible, and hold it for 8 seconds then, in an even flow, exhale through the mouth. Then tighten your stomach muscles to remove the excess air. Repeat this process.
To prepare for any chronic-pain coping technique, we must learn how to use focus and deep breathing to relax. Learning to relax is worthwhile and with patience, you are more able to release muscle tension in the body and distance yourself from the pain.
These techniques for dealing with chronic pain start with controlled deep breathing (in for 4, out for 4). Once you have yourself in a relaxed, reclining position, (preferably in a warm ventilated room), then focus on a particular point or close your eyes. Begin to slow down your breathing. Breathe deeply through your nose, using your abdomen to rise slowly and fill with air. If your mind wanders or you become distracted, think of a word such as ‘relax’, or ‘release’, and think it in time with your breathing. Allow it to flow in a steady stream, each inhale combining with the word relax, and each exhale combining with the word release.
Doing breathing tasks like this can help each part of the body to release tension and fully be at ease in a relaxed position. For some this is hard to achieve. Tension is a part of life, and sometimes it can be a difficult task to let go of tensions that the body holds. Each time you do breathing exercises, relaxing will become easier.
Starting with your torso, lying in a reclined flat position on the floor or bed, you will breathe away tensions in the torso area. First, it is a good idea to clench the stomach muscles and touch this area to feel the tension, then on the exhale feel the stomach lower and soften and with it some of the tension will go. Do this 3-4 times, thinking of the areas you are focusing on releasing. In the torso area it should be the stomach, chest and pelvis. Work your way from the torso down to legs and feet, then arms and hands, then lastly the neck, shoulders and head. So you will breathe in through the nose slowly for a count of 4. Hold the tension in whatever area you are focused on for a second, e.g. the stomach muscles. then exhale, thinking of the word relax (with this exhale the tension will escape with the air).
This is such an important exercise in relaxing and breathing correctly which eases pains and expels tensions at the same time.
These breathing exercises should precede all other exercises, including stretching.