Can taking a few minutes out each day to adopt different breathing techniques actually contribute to our health? A leading website, which advises older people and their families, has just published a quick guide to use better breathing to help us do everything from relieving stress to gaining energy.
The everyday expression “as easy as breathing” ignores the fact that there are many different ways to take on board the oxygen we need. Moreover, there is plenty of medical of evidence to show that the way most of us who lead sedentary lives breathe in quick shallow breaths for most of the time, which actually weakens our respiratory muscles and puts tension on our upper body.
And that’s before the impact of the stress we experience, which adds further to the problem.
“That’s why meditation techniques centre on controlling our breathing,” says Deborah Stone, MD of advice website www.myageingparent.com, which has just published a handy guide to healthier breathing, aimed at older people.
Breathing exercises, says Deborah, can help older people and their carers to relax and de-stress, as well as reducing the symptoms of respiratory problems caused by asthma, lung disease, high blood pressure and even snoring. Although, if the person has a serious condition, it would be advisable to consult with their doctor first.
“The problem is that many older people can spend a lot of their time sitting or lying down, often because of medical conditions which prevent them from exercising. Many also suffer from stress-related conditions. A few simple breathing techniques can make a huge difference and we would urge anyone caring for an elderly relative to introduce these ideas to them, perhaps by sitting with them, joining in and encouraging them.”
People often take much shallower breaths than they should, especially when stressed or anxious and also when lung capacity is limited. If you try to breathe more deeply, it will help you to relax and to breathe more efficiently. Sit straight and breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. You should feel your stomach expand as you breathe in. Then breathe out slowly through your mouth. Keep repeating it, ideally for ten minutes or longer if you can.
To help you sleep:
Another breathing technique is particularly useful if you are having trouble sleeping. This time, breathe out through the mouth, so that the air you exhale make a whooshing noise. Then close your mouth and breathe in and hold your breath for a count of seven. Then breathe out of the mouth again for a count of eight, making the same whooshing noise and repeat ten times.
To stop snoring and help with asthma:
A Russian breathing technique called Buteyko can relieve snoring, asthma and anxiety. Sit straight and start to concentrate on your breathing. Close your mouth and breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your nose until you feel you have to breathe in again. Keep repeating for at least ten in and out breaths.
To boost your energy:
Another technique to give you an energy boost is to breathe in and out through your nose rapidly. Do it for fifteen seconds to begin with and then build up the time.
To reduce anxiety:
Hold one nostril closed and breathe in through the other one. Then when you exhale, close of the other nostril. Repeat ten times.
“A few minutes spent encouraging a relative to follow these simple exercises every day could help them towards a calmer, healthier life,” says Deborah. ‘’And if they joined in, it might help the carer along the way too!”
Read more about the breathing techniques HERE