‘All chronic pain, suffering and disease are caused by a lack of oxygen at the cell level’ wrote Dr Arthur C Guyton.
‘Proper breathing nourishes the cells of the body with oxygen and optimises the functioning of the body on all levels.’
Studies have shown that conscious breathing exercises such as ‘breathe in for four, hold for seven, out for eight’ are beneficial for a wide variety of conditions.
Conscious breathing activates the body’s relaxation response, which in turn reduces blood pressure, lowers the risk of stroke and improves cardiovascular health.
It’s also good for digestion and general immunity, both of which are impaired by stress.
Similar techniques are at the heart of hypnotherapy which are becoming increasingly popular.
How to breathe
Put one hand on your belly and one on your chest, between your collar bones. Breathe slowly and deeply from the diaphragm. Your belly should expand in an exaggerated way on the inhale, your top hand should be still. This is ‘horizontal’ breath
Now do it “wrong” to feel the contrast. Breathe upwards into the chest, so your top hand moves but your bottom hand is still. This is the “vertical” breathing you should try to eliminate.
Perch on the edge of a chair with your back straight. Breathe through your mouth. On the inhale, lean forward while expanding the belly. On the exhale, contract the belly as you lean back – breathe out until you are completely empty. Repeat 20 times. The movement should help situate the breath low in the body.
Lie on your back and place a large book on your belly. Take a deep belly breath so it rises up in your peripheral vision. Repeat 50 times, adding heavier books. This will strengthen your core breathing muscles.