Updated: Jul 28, 2022
Once per week, I go to Yoga class. Time to time, the yoga teacher looks at the group practising and tells us: “Don’t forget to breathe”. Every time she says that, I realize that I am indeed holding my breath. This is something I have noticed before during efforts. It has been like that for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t know how I was doing it wrong, when I was younger and leaving the gym looking like the only out-of-breath tomato. Recently, I decided to look deeper into breathing and how to learn how to breathe better.
We breathe around 20,000 times per day. So, you might wonder why someone would need to learn how to breathe: breathing is the most natural thing that we do. We are all born with a PhD in breathing. As new-borns, we naturally practise deep abdominal (or diaphragmatic) breathing. However, as adults, due to stressful and sedentary lifestyles, we tend to breathe incorrectly.
The body needs two main fuels: oxygen (O2) and nutrients. When you breathe in through your nose from the diaphragm (the muscle that separate the chest from the abdomen) you fill your lung with O2. When you breathe out, you eject a waste product from your body: carbon dioxide (CO2). Bad breathing can lead to taking less O2 and getting less CO2 out of your body.
You may not realize but your breathing affects also your nervous system’s responses to the outside sources of stress. This can lead to feeling tired, unfocused and stressed out. Our breathing regulates our nervous system, promoting either the sympathetic response (fight or flight) or the parasympathetic response (rest and digest). Long exposure to stress can lead to a wrong response of the body to an event.
Breathing from the abdomen is essential: it triggers the body’s relaxation response. If you are using your diaphragm well, you will see your stomach gently expand when you breathe in, and relax back down when you breathe out. The chest should not move a lot.
Changing the way you inhale and exhale can help you feel more relaxed, energized, reduce stress, improve mood or be more focused. The key is learning different methods for controlling your nervous system through breathing.
Recently, I have been focusing more on my breathing in different situations, focusing on how I breathe without control and how I breathe with control. I realized that I was breathing with my chest and holding my breath during effort, when I am driving, at work, so I wasn’t doing it right… I am practising some breathing exercise during the day, to teach my body how to breathe properly again and control better my nervous system.
I have also done it while painting my new series of paintings, which I am going to name “Breathe”. Coming soon here. Although painting is not a stressful situation, quite the opposite, but it allows me to practice also in the calm.
Set a reminder a few times each day to assess your breathing and exercise. Put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. Breathe for a few minutes. Simply remind yourself to breathe in through your nose and deep into your belly. You should feel your belly rise and fall with little movement in your chest.
Here is a video of a breathing exercise: 4 seconds breathing in, 4 seconds holding the breath, 4 seconds breathing out. This is an example, that you can adapt to your own breathing capacity and frequency. Do not force your breath.
Take a Break, See, Breathe, Enjoy a Moment of Art.
Discover my painting collection "Breathe"
My new series of paintings « Breathe » is composed of relaxing and beautiful seascapes. I wish to make you have the same feeling of calm and peace of mind that I found while walking along these lovely sea scenes and painting them. I hope that looking at this paintings will remind you to take a break, Breathe and feel the elements of the sea, and make you relax.
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