Top 5 Breathing Exercises to Boost your Mood, by Aimee Hartley

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. We breathe around 20,000 times a day and the way we breathe has a direct impact on the way we feel. Short, shallow breaths wreak havoc on the nervous system, setting alarm bells ringing and the body and mind believes it is under threat.  Taking long, deep breaths sends positive messages to the brain that the body is relaxed, well and happy.

Luckily, armed with knowledge and practice, we can learn to consciously change our breathing to improve our mood, simply by shifting the way we breathe. We can go from sleepy to energized, from panicked to calm, from restless to feeling at ease with just a few minutes of conscious, deep diaphragmatic breathing.  

Here is the top 5 tried and tested, most effective breathing exercises to help you shift into a more positive state of mind.

1. ‘Breath Booster’ - from Sleepy to Energised 

This is like a ‘double shot espresso’ to the system but without the jitters. It’s a super effective breath exercise great for boosting the circulation, detoxifying the body and helps balance the nervous system.  

Contraindications: do not practice the breath-work if pregnant or you are menstruating and have pmt cramps

Sit comfortably, either in a chair or cross-legged and allow the spine to be tall, shoulders relaxed and face soft.

•    This breath is in through the nose out through the nose.
•    As you breathe in, you want the belly to rise like a balloon
•    The exhale is really active and has a good whoosh sound to it and the belly should draw back to the spine with a little speed and effort
•    The rhythm is similar to a steam train gaining speed with a continuous flow to the breath.
•    Start with 1 breath per second and continue for 10 breaths.  Rest and then repeat. 
•    The effort and emphasis should always be on the exhalation and allow the inhale to arrive naturally after the exhale.

You can also bring the arms into play to really boost the energies in the system.  Raise the arms up over the head.  Stretch the fingers to the sky and on the exhalation bring the elbows into the ribcage with a little gusto.  This will really help liven up the whole respiratory system.

•    Inhale. Stretch the arms up over head
•    Exhale. bring the elbows to the ribs allowing the elbows to liven up the ribs
•    Repeat this movement for 10 breaths.  Relax and repeat for up to 5 times
•    Always seek the advice of a certified breath-worker before embarking on a prolonged breath practice.  

The American Institute of Stress says:  “Abdominal breathing for 20 minutes each day will reduce anxiety and reduce stress. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body, bringing your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.”   

2. ‘Breath Deskercise’ - from Uptight to Alright 

Great one to practice at the desk, midway through your working day.  Sit comfortably in your chair rest your hands on your thighs and allow the spine to be tall (it sometimes helps to take the spine a little away from the support of your chair).  

To help release tension in the respiratory muscles in the shoulders and upper back: take a deep and slow inhalation through the nose and raise the shoulders to the ears.  Exhale and let the shoulders go. Repeat 5-10 times and then rotate the shoulders slowly in a backward direction. Be mindful of how you sit at your desk.  Make sure the shoulder blades are drawn down your back, the chest is lifted and allow space between the pelvis and the rib cage.  A good posture can help you breathe easier.  

3.  ‘Sleep Deep 4-3-6 Breath’ – from Wired to Tired

After a full on day, the system can often feel wired and winding down seems to be the last thing on the list.  The breath can act as a perfect bridge from feeling in a heady state to connecting with a more peaceful state of mind.  If comfortable, lie in bed on your belly, head to one side (one pillow, so not to crick the neck too much) and make sure the jaw is relaxed (allow there to be a small space between the upper and lower teeth). Hands either side of the hips, to allow the shoulders to unwind and make sure the fingers are relaxed too.  Close the eyes.  Using a diaphragmatic breath whereby the belly rises on the inhalation – you should feel the belly create a dome shape, descending toward the mattress, breathe in through the nose for a count of 4. Hold the breath for a count of 3. Exhale through the mouth for a count of 6. Repeat this for 5 to 10 rounds and notice how the body relaxes on the exhalation.  On each exhale, imagine ‘letting go’ of the day.  This should prepare you for a deep sleep.  You can download the ‘sonic breath’ series at www.inspirationspace.co.uk to practice this breath counting technique.

4. ‘Good Calmer’ – from Panic to Zen, in under 10

This is a great breath work to help induce feelings of calm. It’s helped people overcome panic attacks and relaxed those who are stressed.   Make sure you have practiced deep belly breathing above before starting this breath work:

1.  Begin with an exhale and then slowly fill your lungs with an inhale from the bottom to the top
2.  Inflate your cheeks and purse your lips, as if blowing out through a straw, as you exhale through the mouth.  Exhale for a count of 10 (repeating in your mind 1 – one thousand, 2 – two thousand and so on)
3. Begin again with a slow deep inhale through the nose and then exhale through the mouth as in step 2. 
4. Repeat between 3 – 5 minutes or until you are feeling calm.  This is great for anyone suffering from anxiety or mild panic attacks.

By pursing your lips and inflating your cheeks you create pressure on the vagus nerve in the back of your throat, which controls many of anxiety’s tell-tale symptoms such as sweating, racing heart, and nausea.  By focusing on the count you help keep your mind off of anxious and fearful thoughts.

5. ‘Transformational Breath’ – from Strive to Thrive

Transformational Breath is one of the world’s most cutting edge breath-work techniques, which has helped people reach their full potential, from those wishing to simply improve their respiratory system to those wanting to reach higher states of consciousness.  Here’s a little taster you can practice on your own.  Prop yourself up on the bed at a semi-reclined angle so your chest is higher than your legs.  Make sure you are warm and comfortable, and that your head and neck are properly supported.  Have your hands on your lower abdomen - a few inches below the navel. Relax the jaw and open the mouth wide, but not strained, and take a deep inhalation, belly should rise like a balloon, and exhale with a quick sigh. Keep all your focus on the inhalation. Inhalation should be about twice as long as the exhalation.  Exhalation should be a quiet and relaxed.  Keep the breath connected, so no pauses between breaths.  Repeat this conscious connected breath from between 2 and 5 minutes (but no more without a breath coach) and notice any physical sensations in the body. Rest for one minute as you return to a normal breathing pattern – breathing through the nose.
 

Online downloadable audio breath exercises are now available from www.inspirationspace.co.uk/breathingclasses

Pacing your Breathing by Dr. Gerbarg 'The Coherent Breath'

In layman's terms, different breathing patterns can serve as a quick and often easy way to manipulate your emotional and physiological state in ways that allow you to be calmer, less stressed, and more productive.


Our lungs are filled with receptors that tell our brains whether we are inhaling or exhaling, explained Dr. Patricia Gerbarg, an assistant clinical professor in psychiatry at New York Medical College and co-author of The Healing Power of the Breath. As we inhale, we activate the sympathetic state (the fight-or-flight system). As we exhale, we activate the parasympathetic state (the calm and collected system). This is why yoga-style breathing exercises often involve long exhalations.

 

"Breathing is the New Yoga", says Vogue

Controlled breathing techniques are a promising antidote to everything from anxiety to PTSD; here’s how to incorporate them into your life.

At a moment when the pressure to live the perfect, productive, and Instagram-beautiful lifestyle is causing more anxiety than ever, there seems to exist at least the promise of an antidote: mindfulness. Lena Dunham practices it; Karlie Kloss swears by it; Oprah leads 21-day challenges teaching meditation techniques including breathing. Sleepless professionals facing burnout are embracing this ancient weapon against stress and depression as fervently as The Beatles and Mia Farrow spread the word of the healing magic of Transcendental Meditation in the late 1960s—maybe the last time that the world felt as topsy-turvy.

And yet, until recently, the essential element that can help us achieve Zen has played a supporting role in the way meditation is taught and practiced. “Breathing is the bridge between yoga and meditation—yoga that strengthens our body and meditation, which strengthens our mind,” meditation teacher and life coach Rajshree Patel said recently at the light-filled New York outpost of the spiritual organization The Art of Living. Patel has for 30 years been teaching Sudarshan Kriya, a series of breathing techniques that’s among the many ancient and new methods being embraced at yoga studios and meditation centers as exercise in their own right. “Twenty years ago, doing yoga sounded like sleeping on a bed of nails, and five or so years ago, meditation was still obscure,” Patel continued. “Now, focusing on breathing is finally starting to seem less foreign. It’s an essential tool and in fact the quickest, simplest way to enhance our health.” And a new generation of classes, apps, and even wearable tech devices are putting the practice front and center, making it easier to incorporate than ever.

In scientific terms, a controlled breathing practice cuts into stress hormones, dances with our nervous system, and regulates the oxygen, CO2, and pH levels in our blood. It has therapy potential against depression, anxiety, and PTSD. In sidewalk terms, breathing lets us get a grip. “A very interesting fact about the breath is how closely it is linked with our emotions. This is actually revolutionary,” psychologist and research scientist Emma Seppälä told a TEDx audience earlier this year, quoting research from the psychologist Pierre Philippot, who determined that specific breaths correspond with specific emotions—summoning anger induces a short and shallow breath, while slowing down the breath can directly reduce anxiety.

Seppälä, author of the book The Happiness Track and the science director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, has looked into the effects of Sudarshan Kriya and other yogic breathing techniques on Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. According to the research, Sudarshan Kriya’s engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system can rebalance brain chemistry. “If you deepen your breath, if you slow your breath, and in particular if you lengthen your exhales, your heart rate decreases, your blood pressure decreases, and you’re tapping into your parasympathetic nervous system,” Seppälä explained. This is “the opposite of ‘fight or flight’—the ‘rest and digest’ nervous system.”

And while simply following the old slogan “just breathe” may not quite cut it, taking the time to learn and adopt targeted techniques can yield lifelong benefits. “The fact that we can use the breath to impact the state of our minds means that we have a tool at all times, no matter what we’re facing, to calm down,” Seppälä assured her TED audience. “We just need to tap into it.”

#presentmum campaign. How to stay more present with the kids

The latest research shows that we are increasingly distracted by modern technology, with the majority of us checking our phones over 100 times a day. Recent Harvard research reveals we spend 47 per cent of our time being somewhere else other than the present moment. That’s nearly half of our lives distracted with the happenings of yesterday or the planning of tomorrow. Cultivating moments in the day when you are truly engaged with the present moment has proven to have positive benefits. 

Queen Of Retreats review of our retreat 'for some, it's life-changing'

These 2 night, 3 day retreats work deeply but quickly to give you more energy, less baggage and a much clearer mind using daily sessions of Transformational Breathing, yoga, meditation, woodland walks, energising juices and healthy food. Your base is the Wasing Estate near Aldermaston in Berkshire, a glorious 4,000 acres of Nania-esque ancient woodland, countryside and winding rivers just an hour from London. The retreats are run by Transformational Breath® coaches Aimee Hartley and Rebecca Dennis and Advanced Yoga Teacher Jess Horn a few times a year, with top up workshops in London in between. For many, they’re life changing.

Yoga Matters by Jess Horn

Yoga Matters by Jess Horn

What does the word retreat conjure up for you? A luxurious break? Images of religious pilgrimage and silence?

It can be any one of these but the important thing is that a retreat gives you time for reflection and a break from the responsibilities and stresses of everyday life.

People have been retreating for millennia. Jesus retreated to the desert, the Indian yogis retreat to caves or nomadic walks and shamans of South America journey into nature and the spirit world. There has been a history of retreats in most cultures, a stepping away from everyday life into another space and this reflects a deep need within us to take time for ourselves to ask questions and to nurture ourselves mind, body and spirit.

Read More

Secret Spots to Breathe in London

Secret Spots to Breathe in London

Ever catch yourself holding your breath as you walk across a busy road, subconsciously dodging the Big Smoke’s smoke? Find yourself dashing here and there with quick steps and short breaths? Not breathing while texting or checking your phone? Breathing expert, Aimee Hartley, reveals some tips for going deeper – and the best spots in London for a fresh lung-full! 

With the fast pace of life and London topping the charts as one of the most polluted cities in Europe, how can we learn to adopt healthier breathing habits and where’s best to do so?

Since the act of breathing affects the functioning of each and everyone of our 37.2 trillion cells and the physiology of the entire body, it is no surprise that improper breathing is a contributory factor to ill health. Luckily, breathing is one of the body’s only actions which is both voluntary and involuntary and therefore breathing is something we can learn to improve and have some control over.

Read More