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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Posted in Blog

Breathe Here Now – a Huffington Post guest blog by Alan Dolan

Summer is definitely here and I sometimes just feel like lying down in the middle of the day and taking a breather. My favourite time of day is mid afternoon when the sun has past by in the highest point of the sky and the wind comes in off the sea to lighten the air. The air is fresh and the promise of a quiet, still evening is on the horizon so the atmosphere is perfect for a breathe and relaxation. My favourite spot is over looking the island of Graciosa.


I go for a walk with my favourite strolling partner, Louis, my Spanish Water Dog and while he’s pottering by the shoreline I find a quiet place to breathe. Lying in the soft sand, feeling the warm wind on my skin and the cleansing salt air clear my lungs I practice the Conscious Breathing technique for a short time. Just 15 minutes really alters my state of mind and helps my body relax. After a busy morning of teaching the breath-work with guests on retreat and replying to a fair few emails, Skype calls and paying the odd bill, it’s good to just take some respite. You don’t need a beach or crystal clear sea air to practice this technique (but it helps!) but wherever you can find a clear and quiet time to breathe will see you switch on your parasympathetic nervous system, offering the body some rest and digest time.

We breathe over 20,000 times a day and often each inhale and exhale goes unnoticed. The way we breathe is as individual as our fingerprint and has an effect on all the systems of the body.

A shallow and quick breathing pattern can stimulate the ‘flight or fight’ system which makes the body feel anxious and stressed. Learning to breathe deeply and consciously can reverse this feeling allowing the body and mind to feel relaxed, grounded and more present.

Experiencing a deep breath into the abdomen is not only relaxing; it’s been scientifically proven to positively affect the heart, brain, digestive and immune system. Once the breath is moving in the abdomen, the upper lungs can be activated so eventually the breath is full, connected and active.

Abdominal or Chest breather, which one are you?

It’s really important before we learn any breathing technique to find out which type of breathing category we fall into. Although we all have a completely individual breathing pattern we normally fall into one of two categories.

How to find out?

It’s simple! Make sure you are sitting comfortable with the spine supported well. Place one hand on the lower belly (a couple of inches below the belly button) and the other on the upper chest (just below the collar bone). Take a long breath in and out. Notice which part of the body is moving in a more pronounced manner. Take another inhalation and exhalation to be sure. If the upper chests moves more this means you are an upper chest breather and obviously if the abdomen moves more you are a belly breather.

So, how to improve? Most of us tend to fall into the upper chest breather category and those of us who are belly breathers are rarely breathing deep enough so here’s a great way to connect with a deep belly breath.

Lay on your front with your head turned to one side. Take a deep breath in through the nose and feel the belly rise into the surface you are laying on. Imagine you are filling the belly like a balloon. Belly inflates on the inhalation and deflates on the exhalation. Allow the inhalation and exhale to be even in length. Repeat this ten times and with each breath make sure your attention is only with the belly breath. This may take a little practice if you haven’t done before. So keep practicing and the muscles will engage and the breath will naturally start moving the body in that area.

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