You might think breathing is a simple case of in, out, in, out – so easy we do it automatically.
However, a new wellbeing trend – with celebrity devotees including Fearne Cotton, Naomie Harris and Kate Hudson – claims that paying attention to how we breathe can transform our health.
“It’s game-changing. I’ve been visiting a coach for breathwork for a long time and I get so much out of it,” says Fearne.
Good breathing can improve mood, reduce stress and boost energy, as well as helping with health conditions such as asthma and sleep apnea.
And best of all, you can do it anywhere, and it costs nothing.
Being mindful of your breath is an excellent habit to get into.
“Everybody knows how much food and water they should be consuming on a daily basis but very few people think about the quantity of air they breathe,” says breathing expert Tim Ives, author of LipZip: Breathe Better to Live Better.
Take a moment to sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
Without changing anything, note the way you breathe. Are you breathing through your nose or your mouth? Is it fast or slow? Do you take deep or shallow breaths?
Break bad habits
Now that you’re aware of your breathing, it’s time to change bad habits for good ones.
“The best way to do this is to get your mouth into the right position,” says Tim.
“Relax your face and ensure your tongue is on the roof of your mouth. Your lips should be lightly together, but your teeth should be apart.”
When you’re in this position, take a breath and see how it feels. Are you breathing differently from before?
Slow and steady
Feeling anxious? You’re probably taking short, shallow breaths. “Slow your breathing down, as we all tend to breathe too fast,” says breathwork expert Nahid de Belgeonne (thehumanmethod.co.uk).
“Try to do six breaths a minute, which is six counts in on the inhale and six counts out on the exhale.
“This will rapidly reduce the effects of stress.”
Follow your nose
Not only does breathing through your nose help oxygen reach your muscles – it also helps filter out dust, viruses and bacteria.
“When you breathe through your nose, your sinus cavity produces nitric oxide, which kills viruses and bacteria,” Tim explains.
“What’s more, the nose hairs create a natural filtration system.
“This stops particles such as dust getting into the lungs.”
Go for a breathing walk
“Try going for a walk for 30 minutes each day, and only breathe in and out through your nose,” Tim suggests.
At first, it might seem like you’re getting out of breath or can’t breathe in enough air, but persevere.
This will help you get into healthier breathing habits.
Fill your lungs
“Long, slow breaths into the lower lobes of your lungs will activate the parasympathetic nervous system – the part that is dedicated to resting, digesting food and repairing your body,” says Nahid.
“Your lungs are as long as the space from your collarbones to your last rib and mainly in the back of the body. Imagine breathing into the lower part of the lung, the middle of the lung and the top of the lung on an inhale.
“And as you exhale, empty out from the top, middle and bottom of the lung.”
Transformational breathing coach Rebecca Dennis shares three simple breathing exercises everyone can try
You need… ENERGY
Before you reach for a coffee, try this dynamic abdominal breath exercise and wake up the mind.
1 Sit in an upright position with your spine straight and your hands relaxed on your thighs.
2 Take a long, slow inhale through your nose. Then exhale powerfully (also through your nose) while contracting your lower belly.
3 Your body will naturally inhale again, so focus mainly on the forceful exhales as you continue this breathing technique.
4 Once you’re comfortable with the abdominal contraction, practise for 15 seconds and then take a long inhale and let go with a big sigh. Then repeat again for 15 seconds.
You need… TO FOCUS
Finding it hard to focus and make important decisions? Try alternate nostril breathing to refocus and re-energise.
1 Start by sitting in a comfortable and seated position on a chair, or cross-legged on the floor.
2 Hold out your right hand and press the tips of your index and middle fingers into your palm, leaving your ring finger, little finger and thumb extended.
3 Bring your hand up in front of your face and press your thumb on the outside of one nostril. Inhale deeply through your open nostril.
4 At the peak of your inhalation, release your thumb and press your ring finger on the outside of your other nostril, then exhale. Continue for a few minutes before switching sides.
You need… TO DE-STRESS
This breathing exercise can help you feel calm and put the nervous system into a relaxed state.
1 Begin by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position.
2 Close your eyes. Press the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, slightly open your mouth, and exhale until you reach the bottom of your breath.
3 Close your mouth and quietly inhale through your nose for four counts.
4 Then hold your breath for seven counts. Exhale slowly and gently for a total of eight counts to return to the bottom of your breath.
5 Repeat for four full breaths, and work your way up to eight breaths over time.
*Rebecca is working with Purple Bricks ( purplebricks.co.uk )