Breathing – it’s something we do without a second thought, roughly 25,000 times a day. But what if I told you that most of us are doing it wrong?

According to health experts our breath is often too rapid and shallow. However, recent research, echoing ancient wisdom from cultures worldwide, suggests that mastering our breath through simple exercises can profoundly enhance our health and well-being.

At rest, our breathing should be slow and steady, ideally between 12 and 20 breaths per minute. But consciously slowing it down further, to just five to seven breaths per minute, can yield remarkable benefits. These include reduced blood pressure, regulated heart rate, and an uplifted mood. Moreover, slow breathing has been associated with decreased chronic pain, stress, anxiety and depression, while simultaneously boosting fitness and energy levels.

During times of sickness, stress, or anxiety, many of us unknowingly resort to rapid chest breathing, activating the body’s sympathetic nervous system. This response heightens our heart rate and intensifies our perception of danger, real or imagined. Unfortunately, these unhealthy breathing habits can persist long after the threat has passed, perpetuating a cycle of stress and anxiety. However, by slowing down our breath, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system — the body’s ‘rest and digest’ system — promoting a counter response of relaxation and calmness, along with enhanced mental clarity and a reduction in stress levels.

These revelations from modern science echo the wisdom of ancient traditions like yoga and meditation, which have long extolled the virtues of mindful breathing. So, how can you get started? Here are three simple breathing exercises recommended by experts:

  1. 4-4-8 Breathing
    Ideal for combating anxiety or fear, this technique involves inhaling for four counts, holding your breath for four counts, and exhaling slowly for eight counts. Ideally try to breath through your nose.
  1. Alternate Nostril Breathing
    Derived from yoga, this practice improves focus by alternating nostrils while breathing. Start by blocking your right nostril and inhaling through the left nostril for a count of four, then switch and block your left nostril and exhale through the right. Continue this pattern for 5-10 rounds.
  1. Box Breathing
    Utilized by the U.S. Navy SEALs to enhance cognitive focus, this method involves inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding again – all for a count of four each breathing through your nose.

In a world filled with constant hustle and bustle, incorporating these simple breathing exercises into your daily routine can unlock a world of benefits, from stress reduction to enhanced focus and well-being. So, take a moment to pause, and connect with the power of your breath.

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