Changes conscious breathing to automatic breathing

5 breathing exercises: this is how you train a correct breath!

Why is it so important to pay attention to your breath and what is the deep aspect of it in meditation? Why not only sports exercises, but also breathing exercises make sense and what they can look like.

Has a pretty woman / man ever made sure that you “take your breath away”? Or have you ever accused a clingy (ex) partner of “taking your breath away”? Phrases like these make it clear what an enormous impact breathing has on us - even if we hardly give it a thought in everyday life. Why also? Everything happens automatically: Inhaling and exhaling is controlled by the breathing center in the brain. In this way, our body ensures that vital oxygen is constantly getting into the bloodstream and that the organs are supplied with it. Another important aspect of breathing: carbon dioxide, a waste product of our metabolism, is given off.

A healthy adult breathes around 15 times a minute on average - that's 20,000 breaths a day or seven million a year.

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It is worth taking a closer look at something that is supposed to be taken for granted like breathing: Because correct breathing not only calms your mind, it also strengthens the cardiovascular system and has many other positive effects on your health. We have five simple breathing exercises for you that you can do right away.

Why so many people breathe wrongly

Most people have got used to wrong breathing: they breathe too short and too shallow, only raising and lowering the chest. The problem with it: With so-called chest breathing, we take in too little fresh air - too little oxygen gets into the blood. We feel the consequences all over our body. The lack of oxygen supply to the organs can lead to a whole range of problems, such as poor concentration, headaches, gastrointestinal complaints and fatigue.

But why is it that we don't breathe deeply enough? On the one hand, stress and fears play a major role: When we are under tension, the breathing rate changes to make us ready to flee and fight. On the other hand, tight clothing, a cramped posture and our ideal of beauty prevent healthy abdominal breathing. And it works like this: When you breathe in, the diaphragm - our most important respiratory muscle - pushes into the abdomen. The abdomen arches outwards, oxygen flows into the groin area. Relax your stomach so that it is visible when you breathe? This seems unnatural to many - after all, we want to look as slim as possible at all times!

But if you want to optimally supply your body with oxygen, you have to leave such false beliefs behind and just let your breath flow. Various breathing therapy exercises and the practice of breathing meditation show how to train correct breathing. The purpose of these breathing exercises is to become aware of your own breathing, to deepen it and to calm it down.

The role of breathing in meditation

Whether Buddhists, Hindus or followers of Daoism: people from different cultures have been meditating for thousands of years. Detached from religious concepts, it is basically always about the same thing. During meditation we direct our gaze inward, perceive more consciously and let the stream of thoughts come to rest. To achieve this goal, let's focus on breathing. As a simple breathing exercise during meditation, it is sufficient to observe your own breathing flow: inhale - pause for breath - exhale - pause for breath - and so on. This alone makes breathing deeper and calmer.

Do you have difficulty breathing in your stomach?

Then this mental picture may help you: Imagine that when you inhale your stomach is filled with air starting from below - similar to an empty glass that is filled with water.

Breathing is the fixed point of mediation. If you notice that your thoughts are drifting away, that you are thinking about the upcoming tax return or the unanswered e-mails in your inbox, return to breath monitoring. This helps you to be anchored in the here and now in the sense of mindfulness.

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Over time you will find that you are no longer actively evaluating your feelings during meditation: Briefly look at every thought that arises and then let it move on like a white fleecy cloud in the sky. Your breathing will help you with this: If it is quieter than the "thought-washing machine" in your head, you calm yourself down - simply by breathing in and out gently and deeply.

Incidentally, the positive effect of breathing therapy has been scientifically proven:

Breathing meditation reduces the activity in the amygdala, the emotional center in the brain. At the same time, the prefrontal cortex, the brain's rational control center, is getting more busy. This was shown by a study in a brain scanner that psychologists carried out on healthy test subjects in 2016.

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5 breathing exercises for more performance

There are various breathing exercises that stimulate your brain performance and supply your whole body with oxygen. They come from different meditation concepts - give it a try!

1) Kapalabhati: The breath of fire

This breathing exercise is part of pranayama, an aspect of yoga teaching. The word pranayama comes from Sanskrit and means something like "control over the life energy". Sit cross-legged (or, if you can, in the lotus position) on the floor. First, inhale for three to four seconds, stretching your stomach out. Then exhale for three to four seconds while pulling your stomach inward. Then it starts with the fire breath: Exhale 20 to 100 times very quickly and let the inhalation happen automatically.

You may find it helpful to imagine that you are blowing a feather off the back of your hand. Continue to breathe normally for one or two breaths. Then fill your lungs three-quarters full with air, focus on the point between your eyebrows, and hold your breath for as long as is comfortable for you. Continue to breathe normally for a few breaths and start over. Repeat this exercise three to five times.

2) Effective diaphragmatic exercise

You need your diaphragm to be able to breathe deeply into your stomach. This is a flat muscle between the abdomen and the chest cavity that you can train with the following exercise. Lie on the floor with your legs hip-width apart. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Tighten your abs and slowly inhale. As you exhale, you let the air escape through a small gap between your lips, which lie on top of each other.

Count slowly to four as you exhale, and count to two as you inhale. With your hands you can feel that your stomach moves while you breathe - but your chest barely moves. The muscles relax in the course of the exercise.

Would you like to learn more about the healing power of breathing?

In our magazine we introduce you to other breathing techniques.

3) Fragrance breathing

To improve blood flow to your brain, you can try the following breathing exercise: Grasp the bridge of your nose with your thumb and forefinger and stroke firmly several times from the bridge of your nose to the tip of your nose. Take your hands off your nose and take a deep breath - as if you were sniffing a delicious scent. You will feel how your breath flows gently in and out through your nose. You can repeat this exercise ten times.

4) The lion

This exercise also comes from yoga practice. It helps to relieve tension and clears your mind. Kneel down and place your hands on your thighs. Extend your fingers, stick your tongue out, and focus your eyes on the point between your eyebrows. When you exhale, you roar like a lion. Looks funny - and puts you in a good mood!

5) Small respite for in between

This breathing exercise is great for doing in the office when no one is looking. Sit upright on your desk chair and press your upper body against the backrest. As you inhale, raise your arms up over your sides. As you lower your arms, you breathe out slowly and steadily. Wait for the breathing space and start over with the inspiration impulse.

These five breathing exercises will help you focus on your breathing. If you practice abdominal breathing regularly, you will soon find that you react more calmly and confidently in many situations. Your blood pressure will drop and your digestion will improve as the lifting and lowering in the abdomen acts like a massage.

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Natalie Decker

Natalie has been an editor for 15 years. In addition to lifestyle topics such as cooking and traveling, her focus is on medicine and health. She writes for the online and the Ratgeber-Verlag Graefe und Unzer, among others.

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