Did you know that you take a breath about 15 times each minute and over 21,000 times a day?

You probably don’t even think about breathing unless you’re out of breath, choking, or have asthma. But breathing lets you burn oxygen and glucose, ultimately producing the energy that’s responsible for fueling your muscle contractions, mental processes, and several other functions in your body.

The more efficiently you breathe, the faster you get the fuel you need, get rid of toxins, and replenish with fresh oxygen.

I bet you’ll be as surprised as I was the first time I heard that it was possible to breathe “wrong.” All breathing is better than no breathing, but if you’re taking relatively shallow breaths, you’re missing the benefits of breathing deeper and getting more oxygen.

Can I Change My Breathing, And Why Would I Want To?

There are techniques you can practice that will engage your awareness of the entire breathing process and allow you to breathe deeper.

Being aware of your breathing causes a different reaction than the reflexive breathing that happens most of the time. The end result is typically that you’ll breathe more efficiency — reducing your stress by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.

When you know that you’re breathing — perhaps even going as far as saying or thinking, “I am breathing in; I am breathing out” — you’re activating your parasympathetic nervous system which triggers a “rest and digest” response.

After just a few deep, slow, focused breaths, your heart rate slows and your blood pressure lowers. The benefits of “good breathing” are extremely important, especially if you live your life in a perpetually stressed-out state.

You’ll be able to think more clearly, handle problems with less stress, get more nutrients from your food when you eat, be more emotionally stable, and you’ll have a way to “reset” any time you feel yourself feeling too stressed, angry, or out of control…all by focusing on how you breathe.

Deeper breathing also removes carbon dioxide from your blood stream and speeds up the removal of lactic acid and from your muscles. That means you’ll be generally healthier, less sore, and more relaxed.

stressed-breatheThat All Sounds Good, But Tell Me What To Do

Yoga — with a natural inhalation and exhalation as you move in and out of most postures — provides the perfect platform for you to develop mindful breathing and improved breath capacity. A general rule is to breathe in for upward movements (extension) and breathe out for downward movements (flexion).

So the next time you do a few yoga postures, take the time to notice and connect with your breath. Make a gentle effort to remain aware of the movement itself while synchronizing your breath to it. When your mind wanders away from what you’re doing (and it will wander) bring it back to your movement and breath.

When you’re finished with your yoga practice, lie down in shavasana and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I feel?
  • How am I breathing — fast or slow?
  • What am I thinking?
  • Is there any change in my mental or emotional state?

But I Can’t Stop And Do Yoga In The Middle Of An Office Crisis!

If you’re in a bind and can’t get to your yoga practice until later, just stop and take a few slow, deep breaths until your feel your heart rate slowing and your body relaxing. You can do that anywhere and at any time.

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