Most people only use about 20% of their lung capacity on a regular basis. This default shallow breathing pattern keeps us in the sympathetic nervous system aka activated fight or flight response - creating a cortisol spike which leads to increased anxiety, brain fog, insomnia, weakened immune system and weight gain.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, sadness and grief collect in the lungs which can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression as well as lead to innumerable respiratory health issues.
Luckily for us, adding in a bit of intentional breathing each day can do wonders to help reverse these affects. In yoga, it's believed that breathwork, or Pranayama (which means extension of the life force in Sanskrit), helps purify mind and life force energy (prana) by vitalizing the body, shifting energy and boosting health and immunity.
A note about breathing: When doing most types of intentional breath work, you will reap maximum benefit by using three-dimensional breathing.
How to: Gently expand the stomach towards the ceiling like you're trying to blow up a medium-sized balloon inside of your abdomen, then lift the air upwards, filling up and puffing out the diaphragm, lungs and chest as much possible to the sides, front and back simultaneously.
This tones the organs within the abdominal cavity, increases oxygen supply which aids circulation, detoxification and digestion and allows the body to dispel the stagnant bacteria that accumulates in the lower lungs.
In addition to clearing brain fog, providing mental clarity, balancing energy and regulating hormone production, breathwork also assists with toxin removal as deep belly breathing acts as the body's pump system to stimulate lymph removal.
Nadi Shodana (also known as Channel Purification or Alternate Nostril Breathing)
I like to start my day with alternate nostril breathing - I love that it unites the right and left side of the brain which makes me feel more integrated, alert and balanced throughout the day.
Nadi Shodhana How-To:
- Find a comfortable seat, anchoring the tailbone into the earth, floor or yoga mat. Allow your hips to be heavy with gravity. Then gently extend through the spine and side body, roll your shoulders back and reach the crown of the head towards the sky, creating a straight open channel with your spinal column.
- Begin by taking a few deep, three-dimensional breaths.
- When ready, place the index and middle fingers of your dominant hand on your third eye - the space between your eyes.
- Gently place your thumb of the same hand over your right nostril and the ring finger of the same hand over your left nostril.
- Take a full inhale, then on the exhale, gently place the thumb over your right nostril so the exhalation is expelled through the left nostril only.
- Inhale fully through the left nostril only, then cover the left nostril with the ring finger and exhale fully through the right nostril only.
- Inhale fully through the right nostril only, cover it, then exhale through the left nostril only, alternating covered nostril exhalations and inhalations for 10 rounds or however many you're comfortable with.
4-7-8 Breathing How-To:
Find a comfy spot laying down (I usually do this in bed, with or without pillows is fine). Begin with a few 3-dimensional breaths. Then simply inhale for a count of 4, hold the breath in for a count of 7 and exhale fully for a count of 8.This breathing pattern helps fight insomnia and can provide more restful sleep.
Anytime we exhale longer than we inhale, we are signaling the body to drop into the parasympathetic nervous system, which is where true rest and healing takes place.This breath can be used anytime you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed
Do you have a go-to breathing pattern?
Do you have the capacity to receive AND hold on to what you think you want?
Let’s try it – how does it feel in your body to imagine inviting a loving, healthy relationship into your life?
Where do you feel this in your body? What sensations do you feel when you imagine this? How does it feel – expansive or constricting? Do you feel a sense of lightness at the prospect of sharing your life with a supportive partner, or does the thought of this agitate you because your nervous system is used to chaotic relationships? Did you have to self-soothe as a child so now the thought of living with someone else makes you anxious because you are truly most comfortable alone?
Tomorrow marks the Fall Equinox and signifies one of two days out of the year (the other being the Spring or 'Vernal' Equinox) when day and night are almost exactly equal lengths and the entire planet is most in balance.
Taking our queue from Nature's rhythms, this week is the optimal time to examine balance in our lives.