When we're born, we come out into the world with a huge wailing cry, and a cavernous suck of air. We breathe without thinking. It happens even when we’re sleeping. We breathe in, and oxygen plunges down into our lungs without us even noticing.
I know it might sound a little inane, "just breathe", but the psychological, and physiological effects of breathing properly are well worth sucking up.
Ever watch a footballer when they’re about to shoot a penalty, or a gymnast as they are prepared to make that leap, time seems to stand still. They know that they must maintain absolute focus, and concentration, and the breath helps them to retain their poise.
They breathe deeply, and then leap for that goal. Whether it’s in sport, or yoga, or doing something that scares us, using the breath can help us in everyday situations to maintain our concentration, and focus.
It is one small breath for wo-mankind, and one giant leap for our confidence, creativity and clarity.
When you’re busy or stressed, it’s all too easy to forget to inhale and exhale deeply. When we shallow breathe, we are breathing into our upper lungs, and our body is deprived of oxygen, and not giving ourselves the brain food to function fully. This can cause use to panic, and hyperventilate, and can cause nausea, or dizziness.
When you’re fearful, too often we get caught up in the fear, and forget to breathe. Write yourself a post-it note or set an alarm on your phone reminding yourself to breathe.
When you’re feeling stressed, and scared, remember to breathe deeply. Breathe right down to your bra strap (or imaginary one). Hold the breath in for the count of 1, 2, 3, 4, and then let out a slow, steady breath out for the count of 4, and begin again.
Try to be conscious, and breathe deeply. When you breathe down to the diaphragm, then you get the oxygen you need, your brain relaxes and stops producing the stress hormone, known as cortisol.
When you’re in control of your breath, you can calmly shift your thinking from your stressed limbic brain, into your “thinking” brain, the cortex. When you move from the panic zone to the thinking zone, then you will process your thoughts more clearly, and make better decisions. You want to be in this space when you tell yourself that you’re strong, and capable of achieving all that you set out to do. It is in this arena that you can feel the fear and just bloody do it.
Public speaking, or being on video, or job interviews can make us most fearful. Many clients tell me they don't like their voice, and sound "high-pitched". Being on stage, or on show means that you need to be in full command of your oxygen levels to punch out the words with confidence. Breathing deeply will enable you to speak in full sentences, rather than squeaky short ones, and it immediately reduces the raspy voice that used to haunt me. Just by learning to breathe, I can change my voice from a high-pitched gasp of breath, to one that is confident and commands authority. It's very simple, just remember the old bra strap trick, and breathe deeply down into your diaphragm.
I remember when I first started going to yoga and meditation retreats in India, and being told to breathe. I thought they were ridiculous. And the whole “breathing through one nostril” had me in giggles, but 10 years on, I’m still a convert. Focusing on the breath, and just concentrating on the act of breathing in one nostril, and breathing out through the other nostril will quickly expunge any stress, and force you to go within.
I use it a lot to help me to meditate, and after ten minutes of nostril breathing, my creative juices are fired up, I’m ready to blast through my fears…. And as a bonus, I’m less exhausted than when I started the process.
CALM AND CONFIDENT
- Sit in a quiet, comfortable space – it could be the sofa, or even on a loo seat. Just try to relax
- Close your eyes
- Take a long, deep breath and then exhale slowly, and say the words: “Calm and Confident” silently to yourself
- Take 10 natural breaths. As you breathe in, count down from 10 to 1.
- While you are breathing, notice any tension in your stomach or jaw, and imagine you are loosening those tensions
- After you’ve done 10 rounds of breathing, open your eyes again.
- Tell yourself you are calm and confident.