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Focused Breathing

How to use breathing to improve your mental functioning

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Focused Breathing

Breathing techniques have been used since time immemorial to help people manage their focuscognitive abilities and stress levels.

There’s a reason that these techniques, which have been developed and used for thousands of years, are still in use today: they work!

There are lots of different breathing techniques that can be used for lots of different things so it’s good that you have decided to expand your understanding.

For breathing methods to improve your life, you must first find the ones that work for you, then learn how to use them in different situations.

In this article, we’ll outline the benefits of breathing techniques and introduce you to the most popular and effective methods for you to incorporate into your daily life.

What can breathing techniques do?

There are quite a few things that breathing techniques can do to enhance your living experience, so it’s important to know that you shouldn’t wait until you’re in panic mode before you start bringing your attention to your breath!

Anytime is breathing time!

Breathing techniques can be used at all times of the day to provide many benefits:

  • Breathing techniques help to bring balance between the body and mind, allowing for better motor function, concentration and bodily awareness.
  • Breathing techniques can help to lower blood pressure and maintain body temperature.
  • Breathing techniques are widely known to be effective for fighting anxiety, depression and promoting relaxation, as well as relieving stress and enhancing stress-management. They can also help with many different types of mental health issues.
  • Breathing properly is a prerequisite for developing a state of heightened awareness and mindfulness, which is the invaluable state of mind that many Eastern traditions teach students to attain – especially in the fields of self-awareness, martial arts and focussed activities like meditation.
  • Breathing techniques are a great way to help people who suffer with mild insomnia get a better night’s rest. They can help slow down an overactive mind which is one of the leading contributors to sleeplessness.

These are some of the most prominent benefits that breathing techniques can provide but you’ll probably find some additional improvements to your life once you start practising.

The best places to practice breathing techniques

Depending on what you’re hoping to get out of your breathing exercises, you might want to do them at a specific time or in a specific place.

It’s generally understood that most breathing exercises can be done anywhere, at any time, so you’ll probably want to decide what you’re looking for first…

  • Breathing techniques can be done in the office during long days, to help you focus or to relieve the stress of an extra-large workload. You can even do them in your car or on the bus so the commute to work becomes less of a chore and more of a meditation exercise.
  • Breathing techniques can enhance your personal growth if you practice them alone in a quiet room. Ancient traditions that use meditation as a form of self-discovery, rely heavily on breathing techniques and recommend them above most other practices.
  • Some people find that they experience better results if they do their breathing exercises in the same place at the same time once or twice per day. Good places could include your bedroom, the living room floor or outside in your backyard.
  • If you live near nature, breathing exercises are generally easier to do outside. It’s easier to maintain focus when you’re surrounded by the natural world.
Focused Breathing

Who uses these techniques?

There are quite a few well-known celebrities, who make use of breathing techniques and vouch for them as important tools that helped them succeed.

Selena Gomez (singer, actress & producer) told Vogue magazine that she has a hard time breathing when she’s out and about, even when she’s having conversations. She says that she puts a lot of effort into controlling her breath, and that breath work is one of the reasons she’s able to relax and find peace of mind.

Gisele Bundchen (model actress) has spoken openly about how much she uses breathing techniques for anxiety. Whenever she gets overwhelmed, she makes sure that she slows down and takes a series of long breaths to help bring herself back to baseline. She says she becomes less grounded when she forgets to meditate.

Dawn Riley, famous for being one of the best round-the-world sailboat racers, is at the top of her physical and mental game. She claims that breathing exercises help her in all areas – they relax her before a boat race just as much as they help prepare her for a public speech.

We could go on forever with the list of successful people who use breathing techniques from investment bankers, to navy SEALs, to professional athletes and so on.

Just watch Christiano Ronaldo breathe before he takes a free kick…

What kind of techniques can I use?

There are many variations of breathing techniques that you can use.

Each one is different and will provide a unique range of benefits.

Here are some of the most popular and effective breathing techniques…

Diaphragmatic Breathing

This technique should be the one you master first as it  can influence the way you perform all the other breathing techniques.

It starts by inhaling through the nose. Nasal breathing is said to have many benefits that are too extensive for the purposes of this article. Diaphragmatic breathing can also be done through the mouth; there are schools of thought that just teach you to just get the oxygen in, it doesn’t matter how you do it!

Now for the important part… when you breath in, fill your lungs from your diaphragm (belly), up to your chest and then up to your throat (if comfortable). Pay attention to the way that your belly pushes out (rises) when you’re breathing in.

Then smoothly breathe out. Again, it’s not imperative where you exhale from. Many people say purse your lips and slowly let the air out, like an air valve to control the flow of air. When you breathe out, release air from the throat first, then chest then diaphragm (belly) and as you exhale, your diaphragm should retract (pull in).

What are the benefits?

  • Improves supply of oxygen to all muscles and organs.
  • Improves physical function.
  • Correct natural way of breathing.
  • Puts the body into a more relaxed and calm state.
  • Uses entirety of your lungs.

This video by the Black Country Buddhas on our Youtube channel demonstrates diaphragmatic breathing:

Sama Vritti or Equal Breathing

This is a great introductory technique that’s used in the East to help people get a rudimentary understanding of yogic breathing.

The purpose of this breathing technique is to help people develop stability of mind and body by training them to balance their breath.

Balancing the breath means making sure that you inhale and exhale for the same amount of time. Generally, students begin inhaling through their nose for a count of 4, before exhaling to a count of 4.

This can be done anytime and helps free the mind from stress and anxiety. It’s also great for helping people get to sleep.

What are the benefits?

  • Develops stability of mind and body.
  • Helps free the mind of stress.
  • Helps free the mind of anxiety.
  • Can be use to help you get to sleep.

4-7-8 Technique

This one’s pretty simple: breathe out through your mouth, so your lungs are empty, then close it.

Inhale for a count of 7, then hold your breath for 4 seconds before breathing out for a count of 8.

Repeat this indefinitely but do it at least 3 times to see any improvements to stress.

This technique works by making you slow down and thus enhancing your focus and relaxing your heart rate.

What are the benefits?

  • Can help with mental breakdowns.
  • Relaxing heart rate.
  • Enhances your focus

God shaped man from the soil of the ground and blew the breath of life into his nostrils and man became a living being.

Genesis 2:7

Box Breathing

“Box breathing,” “square breathing” or “the tactical breath” is used in martial arts, yoga and the military. By consciously slowing down the breath and breathing from the diaphragm this allows the body and mind to relax.

Box breathing is done by breathing in for a set count of say 4 seconds, holding for 4 seconds, exhaling for 4 seconds and then holding again for 4 seconds; hence the “box” or “square” pattern.

By calming you down it also helps increase your ability to cope with stress, anxiety and fear.

What are the benefits?

  • Lowers heart rate.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Normalise our perception of time, space and reason.
  • Relaxes muscles.
  • Increases our ability to cope with stress, anxiety and fear.
  • Activates the parasympathetic nervous system and reduces the magnitude of the fight or flight response.

Again, the Black Country Buddhas have done another short video, demonstrating this breathing technique on our Youtube channel:

More information about breathing techniques

Breathing techniques are a great way to improve your health and quality of life.

This article has explained how your body should inhale and exhale by using your diaphragm to help control your emotions and reduce your stress levels.

Breathing techniques are wonderful because they are a simple, free way to change your state and can be done anywhere.

Along with breathing techniques, there are also exercises and foods that can help with improving your mental functioning. As part of our mental health series we have the article’s: “Mindful Exercises” and “Brain Berries and More..For A Healthy Brain which focus on both of these subjects.

Resources:

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