A photo of a woman, side-on, standing with her arms raised above her head. She is facing the sun to the left of the photo and looks like she has taken a deep breath in, chest open, back arched.

The Importance of Deep, Conscious Breathing (plus a breathing challenge)

September 20, 2021

Breathe in… and breathe out…

Sounds simple, but are you aware that most of us don't breathe properly?

Yep – we're lazy breathers!

We breathe shallowly, forgetting our diaphragm and solar plexus need to be exercised just as much as our lungs do. And often, we breathe through our mouths (either while we’re awake or just when we’re sleeping and not conscious of it). While it sounds harmless enough to switch between getting oxygen through the nose or mouth, there are ongoing issues that can occur if we continue to primarily breathe through the mouth...

  • Breathing through the mouth can contribute to a poor quality of sleep, which can negatively impact our focus and contributes to brain fog, bad breath and poor gum health. 

  • It can change the shape of our face as cheeks tighten, nasal blood vessels enlarge and the mouth’s dental arches narrow. The mouth should be closed at all times, the tongue suctioned to the roof of the mouth, jaws relaxed and teeth unclenched.

  • Mouth breathing bypasses the nasal mucosa which has the job to moisten the air coming in, act as a filter, absorb impurities and signal feedback to the brain of smell. It also keeps us in sync with our environment and even self-protection – noticing when there is danger, which is part of the fight or flight nervous system and our defence and ability to stay safe.

  • Open mouth breathing at night often leads to snoring, breath irregularities and sleep apnea, making us much more tired and lethargic than we actually are. Long term lack of quality sleep can contribute to deep fatigue and heart conditions.

But it’s not *always* bad…

Exhaling through the mouth is an efficient way to empty the lungs, making room for more fresh oxygen. By breathing in through our nose and out through the mouth when exercising, we can improve our lung capacity and eliminate toxins purposefully.

Our breath is influential in our state of mind - focusing on our breath when we are anxious, feeling stressed or upset is a powerful way to reset, bring our mind back to calm.

Correct nose breathing and how it supports the body

  • Once we break the habit, correct nose breathing helps us to be present and improves our body posture as we open our chest and lean back, instead of stooping or rolling our shoulders forward (yay to becoming taller!).

  • The tongue suctioned to the palate (the roof of the mouth) encourages the correct facial structure, especially with the shape of the jaw.

  • A healthy sleep cycle with good breathing allows the body to rest, repair and renew. Deep sleep is also when Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is released, which is essential to a child's brain development and long bone growth.

Photo of a woman sitting cross-legged on the grass. She is breathing calmly with her head tilted towards the sky. Her hands are on her knees with the palms facing upwards.

How to improve your sleep:

There are two really simple ways you can improve your sleep... 

1. Check your pillows are the right support for your neck and spinal alignment.

The easiest way to do this is to book in with a physio to check your sleeping posture and alignment or a reformer pilates instructor about exercises to correct neck, shoulder, upper back and chest muscles to improve “the posture of the airways” for better breathing habits. This will help you improve your posture when you are awake and when you’re sleeping!

2. Practice conscious breathing, teaching your lungs, diaphragm and solar plexus to expand and contract with deep breaths.

The more you practice this consciously, the more it’ll become second nature to you. To help you with a simple breathing technique, we've got some steps listed out below. Feel free to have these steps handy for when you do the 10-minute process at home. Once you do it a few times, it'll become second nature and you'll be able to easily incorporate it into your day.

One-Month Breathing Challenge

We’d like to set you a challenge this month - a breathing challenge!

Yes we know you breathe all the time, but do you really breathe in a way that benefits your health, mind and energy levels?

Find a time of day or evening that suits you to step out of the busyness.

For some, this means when they first wake up helping to get the day started. For others, when they settle into bed at night and everything is done, free to focus on breathing and no other distractions!

Or maybe your lunch break might be the time a little breathing exercise can empty out the tired air from the lungs and rejuvenate energy levels and a clear mind.

The Breathing Challenge Process

  1. Sit comfortably with feet out in front of you, as on a chair or on the ground, back straight and body supported if you find it difficult to sit upright for a length of time without stopping your back.

    It is important you can let go of your thoughts and muscles to focus only on the cycle of breathing with your belly and chest open and not folding forward or hunched over as we often do when we relax or slouch on a couch.

  2. Set your timer on your phone to 10 minutes or have some music playing that runs for 10 minutes so you don’t have to think about anything but breathing.

  3. When you are ready, begin to breathe in through your nose and out through the mouth. You don't need to count any specific number of seconds, just steady and even breaths, in and out for 5 breaths.

    Allow the breath to go into the lungs and down into your belly, then up and out from your belly, out through the mouth.

  4. Next complete another 5 full in and out breaths, but as you breathe in through the nose, hold your breath in your lungs and belly for the count of 5, then allow your breath to come up and out through the mouth. Repeat 5 times.

  5. Continue to breathe in, hold your breath down in your belly for the count of 5, then slowly releasing out through the mouth, now holding the breath out for the count of 5. Repeat for 5 breaths.

  6. Now back to normal, slow, deep belly-breaths, breathe in through the nose and breath out through the mouth, bringing your arms into the breath circle.

    Extend your arms fully out to your sides, lifting from your sides directly up and over your head with the in-breath, stretching your ribs, chest, torso up with your arms, and then releasing down as you breath out through your mouth, arms coming back down by your sides. Repeat 5 times.

  7. Repeat this same cycle, holding for 5 at top with arms fully extended above your head, ribs and chest open. Break with breathing fully out with arms down by your side. Repeat for 5 full breaths.

  8. Then, rest your hands on your knees, body still upright and legs out in front as in a chair. These are shorter, faster, deep breaths in and out, sucking the air in through the nose and out through the mouth.

    Breath in through your nose and down into your belly then breath out through your mouth using your belly to push the air out.  Repeat for 2-3 minutes.

  9. Come back to regular, steady in through the nose and out by the mouth breaths, steady even breathing down into the belly.

  10. Feel free to take a few moments at the end for a mini-meditation. Slowly open your eyes again when you feel ready.

An artistic photo showing the shape of the lungs with branches and flowers. One main branch comes through the centre and splits into two then pink and purple flowers have been placed on either side in the shape of the lungs.

You may find at first you get a little lightheaded, especially with the arm raising or the belly pushing out steps. Be conscious of your limits and allow yourself to stop and slip back to regular in and out breathing if you feel the need to.

Or you may simply notice the sensation but feel you're okay to continue. Then you can simply allow the headiness to pass while the blood, cells, lungs, brain and whole body are saturated with a wonderful exchange of oxygen and carbon, eliminating toxins and waste with the breath.

When you are lifting your arms you are helping to both strengthen and expand the ribs and lateral muscles down the side of your body and exercise your diaphragm. Actually, all of these breathing steps are helping to exercise the diaphragm. A muscle band that sits under the lungs with the solar plexus, responsible, amongst other things, for drawing the lungs down and maintaining air capacity.

The combination of our posture often being a little stooped or folding forward, the diaphragm is often not very engaged in our breathing process. We tend to breathe in the top of our lungs only, subconsciously taking a sigh or yawning occasionally to empty our lungs a little more when our body is depleted of fresh air.

Are you ready to give the challenge a go?

We’d like to challenge you to find the time each day to do this breathing process for a month.

Set a time for each day and try to stick to that time. Don’t make it the only time though. If you feel stressed, anxious or tired, take a few moments and do it, even if it's just a shorter version.

Breathe through the few minutes of anxiety or stress, focus on your breath and feel the very real benefits of oxygenating your lungs, cells, and brain. Stay there until you feel the moment pass.

Do the breath challenge for your Self, hopefully the habit you create with this challenge means you will continue to exercise your lungs.

Our respiratory system and our breath are an essential basis of our health and wellbeing and there is no time like the present to strengthen our lungs, eliminate toxins, improve our breathing habits and BE PRESENT xx

If you do end up doing the challenge, take a pic or time-lapse and tag us on Instagram in a post or stories or on Facebook - #mayellaorganics. This helps to share the fun of breathing and is an amazing way to inspire others when you do something good for yourself xx

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Pinterest Image with a photo at the top and text on the bottom. The photo is of a woman deep breathing at the beach with her arms extended above her head and her back slightly arched. The text reads The Importance of Deep, Conscious Breathing (Plus a Breathing Challenge!) Pinterest Image with a photo at the top and text on the bottom. The photo is of a woman sitting cross-legged on grass, with grey clouds in the sky. She is breathing deeply with her eyes closed, head tilted towards the sky and hands on her knees with palms facing up. The text reads The Importance of Deep, Conscious Breathing (Plus a Breathing Challenge!)

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