Breathing your way to better health and wellbeing

Breathing your way to better health and wellbeing
Breathing your way to better health and wellbeing

Breathing is an automatic body function, but it takes just a bit of practice to take charge of your breath and use it to boost your overall wellness. If you haven’t thought much about the way you breathe, it may come as a surprise to know that while all breath goes in and out of the body, not all breathing is the same.

For instance, frequent shallow chest breathing, and mouth breathing have become common ways of breathing for many people.  They are automatic breathing actions that may get us through another day, but do not enable us to experience the truly energising, balancing, healing and restorative power of breath.

Think about taking your next breath

Just as good nutrition, regular physical activity, de-stressing and sufficient sleep are now accepted as essential to maintain health and prevent disease, consciousness of our breath is increasingly recognised as a vital pillar of good health. Our breath is inextricably linked to our mindset. Anger, stress, tension and anxiety quicken and shorten the automatic breath, while feelings of calm, love, joy and relaxation slow it down and deepen it. This in turn, means that you can use conscious deep breathing to relieve stress and transform distressing emotions in the moment.

However, the age-old advice to ‘just take a deep breath’ is not just beneficial to our mental health. Breathing is a complex physiological and biochemical function impacting our entire being, and research shows that controlled deep breathing reduces blood pressure and heart rate, as well as the levels of stress hormones in the body. It balances the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood and reduces lactic acid build-up in the muscles. Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, improves the functioning of our immune system and boosts physical energy, which are important not just for preventative health and day-to-day performance, but also for healing when we are unwell.

Dr Andrew Weil, a pioneer of integrative medicine and popular author of many healthy lifestyle books has said: “If I had to limit my advice on healthy living, it would be simply to learn how to breathe better”.

This is advice that resonates with Doryce Sher, a qualified pharmacist, aromatherapist and the founder of Aromatic Apothecary. She says, “Award-winning science writer, James Nestor is another important voice creating awareness of the importance of breath to our healthy lifestyles. In his life-changing book, Breath The New Science of a Lost Art, Nester highlights that we take a breath 25 000 times a day, and it is so essential to our wellbeing and longevity that we are doing so correctly.

He says the most important change we can make to our breathing is to keep our focus on nasal breathing and avoid unnecessary mouth breathing. The only times that mouth breathing may be required by the body is during the peak of intense cardiovascular exercise and in the case of severe nasal congestion. Therefore, we should not be mouth breathing as we are just going about our ordinary day and it is important to take action to keep nasal passages clear. There are important reasons for nasal breathing. The intricate passageways of the nose serve as both temperature regulators and humidifiers of the breath entering the body.  Inhaling through the nostrils also clarifies the air, and none of this can happen if we are gulping unfiltered air through the mouth.”

Nasal breathing versus mouth breathing

Aromatic Apothecary offers a set of four unique nasal inhalers which help to encourage alternate nasal breathing. Nifty and easy to use, they can be popped into a handbag, school bag or pocket and used anywhere, any time. Doryce says, “The Cold & Sinus nasal inhaler plays an important role in keeping the nasal passages clear so that nasal breathing is smooth and easy. It can be used to manage hay fever and allergy symptoms, as well as for relief during bouts of winter colds and flu.”

The Stress-Less nasal inhaler can be used for relief of the anxiety and tension that automatically shortens and quickens the breath. Slow, deep inhalations in alternate nostrils have an immediate calming effect that is complemented by the unique blend of soothing essential oils. The Headache Care nasal inhaler brings fast relief for tension or sinus-related head pain and can help to bring your attention back to deep nasal breathing.  The Wake Up & Focus nasal inhaler has a stimulating blend of oil for boosting concentration and focus while using nasal breathing to energise and balance the mind.

Doryce concludes, “A wonderful way to help us breathe through one nostril at a time is by using a variety of inhalers to treat common ailments. The benefit of delivering the aromatherapy remedies this way is that it also immediately draws your attention to your breath and fosters nasal breathing.  This is an ideal support for those who are boosting their healthy lifestyles through conscious and controlled breathing techniques.”