How and Why Do We Need to Breathe?
The importance of proper breathing exercises during stressful and uncertain times
By: Jules Carpenter
Have you ever wondered why as children and growing adults, we were told to “just breathe”, “take ten deep breaths,” “breathe and count to ten,” and “breathe deeply”? Did you ever stop to think that there must be something to the idea of breathing deeply and being told to stop and breathe when we became upset or hurt or stressed? I did. I wondered from a young age why every time I stopped to breathe deeply, I felt better than the moments before. Every time I paid attention to my breath and slowed my breathing, I felt aligned again and less emotional.
Over time my curiosity led me to discover breathwork. I learned about a circular connected breathing pattern that helped me uncover fears, let go, relieve postpartum anxiety and depression and begin anew. It was like having a fresh start to life. After a year of exploring my own breath and healing myself, I was divinely aligned with a Breathwork Facilitator Program. I became certified as an Alchemy Breathwork Facilitator and began to start teaching others the power of breath medicine.
2020 has proven to be a year of uncertainty with constant waves of fear, feelings of unsafety and all time high levels of stress, anxiety, panic and depression. My gratitude for my breath and breathing strategies has multiplied. You too can find that grace and gratitude with your breath, any time of day and really anywhere!
To help you understand why slow breathing helps you to feel more calm and grounded, I will give you a brief introduction of how breathing is related to the nervous system.
Our nervous system has three parts:
- the sympathetic nervous system, or fight/flight/freeze (SNS)
- the parasympathetic, or rest/digest (PNS)
- and more recently discovered, the social engagement response
Each part of the nervous system has activated bodily functions to assist with the response, and each response is equally important at their appropriate times. The fight/flight/freeze response is important when faced with a real threat or danger to speed us up, get us out of danger and here we take shallow chest breaths. This is perfect when we need to run or escape, or when exercising at high intensity. However, when we continue to breathe in this way we create a constant feedback loop for our fight/flight/freeze response (SNS). This response keeps us functioning in perpetual anxiousness/edginess/panic feelings…sound familiar?
If you feel like your anxiousness, stress or panic levels are high or constant, have you checked in with your breath? Are you breathing from your chest and holding your breath?
If this is you, I have good news! There is an antidote to stress and anxiousness, and it is slow diaphragmatic breathing! This breathing technique allows you to activate the rest/digest or parasympathetic response, that good feeling of being grounded, present, aware and calm and to socially engage appropriately. It also helps to alkalize the body, another great benefit to our immune system during this season of health and immunity awareness!
So, where do you begin? Great question, and my personal opinion is to go into your diaphragm and practice belly/diaphragmatic breathing right now! Here is a quick technique you can learn easily at home.
- I recommend lying down flat. If that isn’t accessible for your body, then sit upright at an incline.
- Place one hand on your low belly and one hand on your chest. Inhale and expand your low belly moving your breath from your low belly to your chest, exhale and deflate your chest and belly. Repeat, feel the breath starting from your low belly, inflating your belly out or high to the sky and your chest expand following the belly, then feel the deflation on the exhale. Relax, and keep going for 3-5 minutes.
In 1:1 sessions with my clients, we work with diaphragmatic breathwork to both calm the nervous system and also to work with activating the system to release stagnant energy and fears.
If you suffer from panic attacks, I recommend going immediately to the Box Breath. This was developed by former navy seal Mark Divine.
- Imagine a box with equal sides, each side equals 4 counts. 4 counts in, 4 counts hold, 4 counts out, 4 counts hold and repeat.
- Start by taking a full inhale and exhale. Then go into counting your breath equally: 4 seconds inhale, 4 seconds hold, 4 seconds exhale, 4 seconds hold. Repeat until you can feel the panic attack reduce or stop!
*If you are having an attack while driving, please pull over to try this technique*
There are so many wonderful breathing techniques that may suit your needs. I hope that you have found this intro to breathwork helpful and that you have found inspiration to take time everyday to breathe with awareness and intention. If you want to go deeper, I would love to guide you for more. I offer online 1:1 breathwork and meditation sessions as well as donation based group sessions.
I am also releasing my first online course Reparenting Your Inner Child and Healing the Mother Wound, and would love to guide you there as well. Class starts August 17th. We will meet every Monday at 3pm PST. Recordings will be available to anyone not able to be live. Each week you will follow pre-webinar and post webinar material, guided meditations, and home practice assignments to further your healing and understanding and to connect deeper to your inner child. I offer payment plans and affordable packages and will help make this accessible to anyone serious about their healing. See more details about the course HERE!
I look forward to connecting with you, answering questions, and helping you take back control over your nerves, emotions, fears, dreams and life purpose!
Blessings beloveds ~Jules Kandah Carpenter
How to contact Jules:
*disclaimer- I am not a doctor and do not claim to provide medical advice. These strategies and this article is not meant to substitute for medical care or to treat, diagnose or cure any medical conditions. Please consult a medical doctor for your healthcare needs. Please be sure you have consent from your doctor before participating in breathing practices if you have a medical condition. Namaste and thank you!