Health & Fitness: The Breathing Formula

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Kate Cracknell offers a few reminders regarding our breath and presents a unique breathing formula!

Over the years, you’ve probably forgotten how to breathe properly. But it’s easy to re-learn this vital skill, and the benefits are significant – from improved productivity at work to enhanced sleep. You probably think you know how to breathe. Actually, more to the point, you most likely have never given it much thought – it’s just something your body does naturally, automatically, without having to think about it.

But therein lies the problem. Because in fact, it would do us all good to pay more attention to our breathing. Here’s why…

1 – It makes you more productive at work. Breathing properly improves your levels of focus and productivity at work. Stress is one of the biggest contributors to illness and absenteeism among employees; it’s been estimated to cost the US economy $300 billion per year. And even if you aren’t off work as a result, stress is something that affects all of us – and that unquestionably impacts our ability to focus and think creatively.

But there is a simple solution. Deep breathing has been shown to have a significant, positive impact on our ability to deal with stress. Let’s take a step back. As babies, we naturally breathe abdominally – that is, breathing in such a way that our belly goes in and out. This deep breathing is very relaxing. However, the way we breathe tends to change as we get older. We start to shallow breathe, and that’s because the short, fast breaths we associate with feeling scared are also brought on by stress.

The problem is, extended periods of stress result in us always breathing like this – it’s as if our bodies un-learn how to breathe naturally. We end up only ever breathing into the top third of our lungs. The result? We aren’t getting the oxygen we need to keep our brains and bodies firing optimally.

Once these bad habits are ingrained, you have to consciously reverse them, teaching your body how to breathe again. How do you do that? Simple. When you’re sitting at your desk, every hour or two, take a moment to focus on your breathing. Take 10 slow, deep breaths right into your belly, so it expands when you breathe in; if in doubt, put your hand on your belly to feel it move. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

One top tip: if you find yourself sighing while If you’ve been sitting at your desk, it often means you’ve been breathing incorrectly; this is a great time to take 10 of your deep, slow, abdominal breaths. Over time, your body will re-learn how to breathe – and you’ll find you’re less stressed, more productive and more energised.

2 – It helps you sleep. There are, in fact, plenty of techniques designed to help us breathe deeply. Another technique, developed by sleep specialist Dr Andrew Weil, includes an element of breath- holding. Known as the 4-7-8 method, it’s designed to calm the mind, relax the muscles and help us get to sleep.

The technique works as follows:

1. Breathe in through your nose for a count of four; feel your belly expanding.

2. Hold that breath for a count of seven.

3. Blow out through your mouth for a slow count of eight. Ideally you should put your tongue behind your teeth, so you make a whooshing sound as you exhale.

This method is based on a yoga technique – Pranayama – and it works, says Weil, because the lungs become fully charged with air and bring more oxygen into the body. In turn, this promotes a state of mental and physical calm.

Once again, it comes down to the amazing ability of deep breathing to expel stress from our bodies. In this case, though, rather than helping us focus at work, the benefit is enhanced sleep: the 4-7-8 technique is said to help us fall asleep in a shorter period of time, and even sleep longer through the night.

3 – You’ll get more from your workouts. Focusing on breathing while you exercise is also important, and not only in classes like yoga and Pilates where it’s emphasized throughout every move. Indeed, adopting the correct breathing techniques can ensure you get the best results from every workout you do.

Aspria’s use of the word ‘wellbeing’ reflects its very holistic approach to being healthy and well. For Aspria, wellbeing is much more about how you feel, not simply how fit you are. It’s about being truly well at a physical, mental and emotional level. Wellbeing at Aspria is a comprehensive, 360° service for real people.

That is why Aspria’s facilities and services are so diverse. Discover more on www.aspria.com