How often do you really take the time to focus on your breath? While many of us pay attention to what we eat, the amount of water we drink and our quantity of sleep, the breath is one crucial part of the wellness equation so often overlooked.
While all of the breathing techniques we have listed here can be linked to the numerous strains of pranayama – derived from the words prana meaning ‘life force’ or ‘life energy’; yama meaning ‘discipline’ or ‘control’; and ayama meaning ‘expansion’ or ‘non-restraint’ – the motivation behind the practise as a whole remains the same; to increase focus and concentration and bring a sense of serenity and peace to our emotional and physical being.
Powerfully affecting every system in our bodies (yes, even our skin!), it makes sense that incorporating a breathing practise into our every day can support physical, mental and emotional ailments. After all, it’s not called the ‘breath of life’ for nothing!
Below we have compiled an overview of a few of our favourite breathing techniques to help you reconnect with your breath, one inhalation at a time…
While all the techniques we have listed are designed to be mindfully practised, for those just beginning to incorporate breath-work into their daily regime, we find that ‘killing two birds with one stone’ and incorporating a breathing element into our meditation can help to make the process flow more naturally to begin with, using the breath as a focal point.
It can help with healthy skin too, mindful breathing and meditation may help reduce stress which can impact hormone balance, with a potential knock-on effect for skin. Mindful Breathing helps to release tension, aid relaxation and increase the oxygenation of skin tissues: “In Chinese medicine the lungs are said to govern the skin. I’m sure you have all noticed when you go for a walk in the countryside, breathing in fresh air, how much better you feel and how glowing your skin becomes. This is why I consider teaching deep breathing techniques such an important part of my treatment plans.” – Jane Kersel
Special mention: Published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, researchers have found a link between meditation induced ‘wellbeing’ and cellular ageing, with studies indicating that a regular practise has an effect on the length of telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes. The length of these caps have been linked to chronic stress exposure and depression and now the long-term health of cells in the body1.
Nadi Shodhan Pranayama
Suffer from indigestion, poor circulation or lung problems? Practised for centuries for its therapeutic benefits, Nadi Shodhan Pranayama, otherwise known as Alternate Nostril Breathing, is especially beneficial for those conditions associated with the autonomic and respiratory systems, with studies demonstrating the possible therapeutic effect on influencing blood pressure when practised on a regular basis2. Additionally, frequent practise of Nadi Shodhan Pranayama is a great way to ensure stale air, carbon dioxide and impurities are removed from our system.
The most commonly practised pranayama, the Ujjayi breath is especially beneficial in developing a yoga practise. Generating internal body heat, the Ujjayi breath acts as a warm up from the inside out, preparing the body to be cleansed of any accumulated toxins during an asana practise.
Additionally, it is thought that breathing in a way that encompasses the entire torso, beginning in the lower belly and rising to the upper chest and throat, activates the 4 chakras located in this region.
According to Michelle Roques O’Neil, founder of Therapie Roques O’Neil, inhaling aromatherapeutic oils is a great way to interrupt patterns of stress and anxiety, while also offering an immediate sense of relief from more physical symptoms such as nasal congestion: “We have over 4000 smell receptors sited in the nose and therefore it is an amazing delivery system both for physical relief and emotional support.”
Prescribing the use of oils such as Lavender, Rose and Fragonia as aromatherapeutic remedies, Michelle additionally cites Jasmine as particularly helpful for those suffering from depression; Frankincense for those going through a period of grief; and Vetiverte if it’s a sense of grounding her client is after.
If you’d like to enhance your breathing practise or are having trouble getting started, we find that using a ‘prop’ such as a Eym aromatherapy candle, The Owl & the Apothecary crystal candle, or a Sunday of London energy mist helps us get into the zone…. or try the Incausa Bath & Meditate Set.
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- al, E. E. (2011). Can meditation slow rate of cellular ageing? Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
- Raghuraj P. & Telles S. (2008). Immediate effect of specific nostril manipulating yoga breathing practises on autonomic and respiratory variables. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback , 65-75.