The first in our new series of Content Rituals we take a look at the stress relieving, skin boosting and beautifying benefits of the breathing well.
Supporting every system in the body, a good breathing practise is an important aspect of our general wellbeing so often overlooked due to its autonomic nature. To accompany this week’s post on our favourite ways to breathe, we asked yoga teacher and wellness expert Jane Kersel to reveal her favourite breathing ritual for you to practise and enjoy from the comfort of your home. Over to Jane....
In the western world, we tend to hunch our shoulders, cave our chests hunched over computers, driving, pushing kids buggies and generally walking around closing our vulnerable chest areas. If you are new to breathing exercises and controlling your breathing you need to be aware of some very simple and important things:
- If you’ve ever suffered from asthma you may find certain breathing exercises agitate your nervous system - if so stop doing them.
- If you have not done much yoga breathing before, know that it’s less about the funky style of breathing you’re learning and much more about being able to open your body to the breath ie. If you are tight in your chest muscles etc, any amount of clever breathing exercises you do are just not going to be effective. Instead, try some simple stretches first and work on a very simple practise of inhaling/exhaling as further explained below.
- One of the biggest issues I see in people’s breathing habits are shallow breathing - so first learn this simple breathing exercise as it will help you relax, calm your nervous system, get you breathing consciously and deeply and encourage your lungs to be more efficient.
- Begin by clearing a space or retreating to your designated meditation space. Light one of my candles to set the mood.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and soles of your feet on the floor just over hip width apart and let your inner knees touch so your leg muscles can fully relax against each other. This will help to release your back muscles. Put one hand on your lower belly and the other hand on your chest - both palms facing down and shoulders relaxed.
- On the inhale with the lips closed, let your belly expand into your hand and as you exhale feel the belly release back down. Repeat this 5 times.
- On the next inhale, keep your belly quiet and feel the breath expand into your top hand (your chest) and exhale from the chest - draw your belly gently in and down on the exhale to increase the feeling of release. Repeat this 5 times.
- Now add this together. On the inhale breathe into the bottom hand and exhale from the bottom hand, on the next inhale breathe into your heart and exhale from your heart, keep doing this 5 times - belly - heart - belly - heart. See if you can witness the different sensations in your body and in your breath. If you have a blocked nose or feel hot, do the same with your lips softly open.
- To end your practise lift both arms up and back over your head to the floor behind you and take a long deep breath in from belly to chest and as you breathe out take a long deep sigh. Do that 4 more times.
This is a profound yet super simple exercise, a meditation in itself that brings you back into the feelings/sensations in your body and out of the busy-ness of your mind. Just because it is simple don’t think it’s not massively important! As you relate more deeply to yourself you will begin to cultivate a better relationship to your inner world and frankly as we all get older the inner world is the place we need to start to make friends with sooner rather than later.