Tag Archives: diaphragmatic breathing

Breathe. Creative Commons License Image.

Breathing. And Why I Encourage Yoga For Beauty.

April 23, 2013

“Breathing Is Essential!” I hear Jane Fonda say in a singsong voice from the TV screen.

I raise my eyebrow and snort out of my nose. I’m in the middle of doing a side leg lift, hands on my hip and I’m feeling extra ridiculous. “Oh really, Jane?”

That was years ago.

Please don’t ask me why I used to do Jane Fonda workout videos. It was just something my friend and I did for giggles, ok?

But to this day, I’ve never forgotten about that Jane Fonda workout. OR that ridiculous quote ringing in my head…

“Breathing is essential!”

Of course it is.

It’s a fact so OBVIOUSLY true, that oh my god, do you really need to say it?

But yes, actually you do. You do need to say it. And then repeat it. Again and again. Because most people don’t think about the importance of their breath.

Or how the quality of your breath can affect the state of your mind. 

Breathe. Creative Commons License Image.

Many of our important emotions (ie. joy, fear, anger, sadness) are associated with a signature breathing pattern. A recent article from Acne Einstein‘s blog breaks down four different signature breathing patterns.

Basically, when you’re relaxed, you tend to breathe slowly and deeply through your nose. Your breathing pattern is regular.

But when you’re stressed or angry or anxious about something, your breathing pattern changes. It becomes shallow, irregular and your ribcage becomes tense.

Even without thinking about it, your body’s breathing patterns change with your emotions. But this connection between our minds and our breaths isn’t a one-way street.

Things can also go the other way.

If you can control your breath, you can also begin to control your emotions.

Yoga as a Stress-Buster

When we let stress run amok in our lives, it can wreak damage to our physical health. And the health of our skin.

Stress and acne are strongly linked together (in my case, I would even say that it CAUSED my acne). It can flare up eczema and rosacea. And it can keep us from getting the most out of our much needed beauty sleep.

But in the face of a stressful situation, if we consciously relax our muscles and control our breaths to become deep, slow and regular breaths, we can reduce and disperse the feeling of stress.

Control over your breathing patterns means the ability to keep stress at bay. 

And this is why I constantly encourage people to practice Yoga.

Yoga is amazing at keeping your body physically fit and keeping flexibility in your spine! What’s more, the breathing exercises and lessons that you learn from yoga are incredibly valuable.

Before you can control your breathing patterns, you must first become familiar with the way you breathe while being completely relaxed.

And the best yoga pose for this is one that’s so simple you wouldn’t even think that you’re doing yoga…

SAVASANA: Complete Relaxation

Savasana (also known as Corpse Pose) is usually the pose that you take on at the end of your yoga practice.

To take on the Savasana pose, you basically lie on your back, with the weight of your body evenly distributed throughout and your spine properly aligned. Then you allow yourself to completely melt into relaxation.

The best place to practice Savasana is on the floor because it provides a firm and even surface. You can place a blanket under the length of your body. Also, to keep your body from getting cold, be sure to cover up with socks and a long sleeved shirt.

This is the best time to become familiar with your relaxed breathing pattern.

Image by Yana Stowe. Used with permission.

During Savasana, you can actively practice diaphragmatic breathing. 

This is a deep, calm type of breathing that allows the maximum amount of oxygen to enter the bloodstream:

  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  • Breathe in slowly and evenly through your nose.
  • When you breathe in, the hand on the abdomen should rise slightly higher than the one on the chest.
  • Exhale slowly and evenly through your mouth.
  • Find a regular rhythm between your inhalations, holding the breath in and exhalations.
  • You can deepen the breathing by exhaling more air, so try gently contracting the abdominal muscles to evacuate any remaining air from the lungs.
  • During exhalations, release any contraction of your muscles.
  • Close your eyes and relax your eye muscles.
  • Soften your tongue, your jaw and the skin on your forehead.

Even though this is a relaxation exercise, Savasana does require some effort to keep your mind focused. Your mind may tend to wander over to your worries or start going over your day’s To-Do list. But if this happens, just gently bring your mind back to the present moment.

Ideally, you would do Savasana right after a yoga session.

But even if you don’t practice yoga, you can and you should practice this simple pose!

Try doing this relaxing exercise at least once every day, right before getting out of bed or right before falling asleep.

I promise it will change your life!

Image Sources:
Breathe – by Shawn Rossi. Creative Commons License. Used with attribution.
Corpse Pose – by Yana Stowe of givemeballroom.com. Used with permission.

Beyond Dreaming: Deep Sleep For Complete Rejuvenation

July 20, 2012

To truly feel and look our best, we must have sleep!

There is simply no way of getting around this.

But how much sleep do we need and what kind of sleep should we have in order to feel completely rejuvenated?

The idea of getting enough “beauty sleep” has been around for centuries. Probably even before the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty was invented.

But it wasn’t until quite recently, in 2010, that a scientific study was conducted by a team of researchers to confirm that sleep deprivation leads to the perception of being less healthy and attractive.

This scientific study was done by a team of Swedish researchers and published in the British Medical Journal.

I’m not sure we actually needed a scientific study for this, but at least now we have real scientific support arguing for the beauty benefits of sleep. So hooray.

What this research fails to address, however, is the question of how many hours of sleep we must have in order to feel completely rested.

We often hear we need at least 8 hours of sleep. But there exists contrary evidence that 8 hours may actually be too much sleep. And too much sleep may be equally as bad for you as too little sleep.

Take this article from Time Magazine for example, where it’s suggested that 8 hours of sleep may begin to be too much sleep. In fact, people who get between 6.5 and 7.5 hours of sleep per night may end up living longer than people who sleep too much or sleep too little!

Ironically, the idea that we need at least 8 hours of sleep can stress people out over their lack of sleep and eventually contribute to stress-induced insomnia.

There is so much varying research out there that I am beginning to believe there really is no magic number to the amount of sleep that we need.

It makes sense that different age groups need different amounts of sleep. And the amount of sleep needed also varies upon the individual. Infants can need as much as 15 hours of sleep, while adults may only need 7.5 hours in order to function at their best.

However, it’s not just the amount of sleep that we have to get right.

The quality of sleep also matters. A lot.

Once we fall asleep, we go through different stages of the sleep cycle. There are two main types of sleep. Non-REM sleep, which consists of four, ever-deepening stages of sleep. And REM sleep, called Rapid Eye Movement because your eyes are moving back and forth rapidly during this stage. You do most of your active dreaming during REM.

It’s true that each stage of sleep in the sleep cycle offers benefits to the sleeper.

But the stage that is key to waking up feeling completely refreshed and energized? Deep Sleep.

Deep sleep occurs during the 3rd and 4th stage of Non-REM sleep.

When we are in deep sleep, we are beyond the subconscious state in which dreaming occurs. 

It is a time for the body to repair itself and build up energy for the day ahead. It plays a major role in maintaining health, stimulating growth and development, repairing muscles and tissues, and boosting the immune system.

Deep sleep may also be important in helping clear the brain for new learning the next day.

But in order to get the full benefits of deep sleep, we must complete the entire sleep cycle. Otherwise, if we are awakened in the middle of the deep sleep stage we will end up feeling very sluggish and experience what is called “sleep drunkenness.”

While deep sleep functions to restore us physically and mentally, achieving deep sleep can be easily disturbed by the effects of stress, sleep disruption, ageing, and stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol.

So! What can we do to get more of this magically restorative sleep stage?

Here are a few helpful tips:

1) Leave behind all of the day’s baggage. Forget about all the worrying things that have happened today or will happen tomorrow. Make an agreement with yourself that you are going to pick it all up again first thing in the morning. But that for now, you are going to prepare your body and your mind for a sound and peaceful rest.

2) Begin to slow and quiet things down a couple of hours before bedtime. Sever yourself from stimulating environments and devices. Dim the lights, shut off your computer and cell phone. And please stop looking at the clock to count how many hours you are or aren’t going to get!

3) Establish a relaxing pre-bedtime routine such as gentle stretching, bathing and light meditation.

Also, in order to quickly enter the refreshing state of deep sleep, you can try this breathing technique:

  • Lie comfortably in bed and establish diaphragmatic breathing.
  • Avoid any effort or strain and keep the breath even, smooth, and without jerks and pauses.
  • In this exercise the exhalations should be twice as long as the inhalations, so you may count 2 breaths in and 4 out, 3 breaths in and 6 out or whatever makes you feel most comfortable and relaxed.
  • Using the two-to-one breath count, take eight breaths lying on the back, sixteen breaths lyring on the right side, and thirty two breaths lying on the left side.

Most people fall asleep even before completing this exercise. Give it a try! It may just be what you need to enjoy deep sleep and achieve complete rejuvenation.