THE MOST POWERFUL tools for taking care of our wellbeing are the ones that already exist within us – and breathing is a prime example. And awareness of our breath connects us to the way we move, the way we think and the way we feel. Indeed, our breath reflects the way we live.
The way we breathe is unique – we can breathe with either unconscious or conscious thought, but most of us aren’t even aware of the way we breathe, or the impact our breathing habits are having on us. For example, when we start to get short of breath – walking up a hill, or sprinting on the bike, we tend to start breathing through our mouths rather than through our noses, and this will affect the quality of the breath.
Our breath is closely linked to our autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is composed of two branches; the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic branch is associated with the ‘fight or flight’ response, while the parasympathetic branch is characterised by inhibitory responses and restorative processes, such as lowering heart rate and breathing rate, so that the body’s system can stay in balance after facing a stressor.