We’ve all come to a point during a particularly tough day when we feel as though we’ve reached our breaking point.
However, taking a moment out of your busy life to focus on your breath could be extremely beneficial for your mental health, both in the short and long term.
Using a simple breathing technique to soothe your mind is not only effective, but also very easy to learn.
The “coherent breathing” method was invented by Stephen Elliott, life scientist and author of The New Science of Breath.
Elliott has previously studied different forms of yoga taught in China, Kashmir and India, which inspired the development of coherent breathing.
Coherent breathing involves becoming more conscious of the way you inhale and exhale, breathing at an approximate frequency of five breaths per minute.
While this concept may not sound particularly groundbreaking, Elliott assures that doing so can have a hugely positive impact on your overall wellbeing.
Singing for Breathing has been demonstrated to reduce anxiety about breathing difficulty and increase confidence in self-managing everyday activity and living. Participants have described engaging in more social and valued activities and experience less difficulty breathing. Singing for Breathing aims to improve the quality of life, health and wellbeing of those who have been diagnosed with a respiratory condition. The intended outcome is that individuals have increased confidence to self-manage their condition.
Slow breathing practices have been adopted in the modern world across the globe due to their claimed health benefits. This has piqued the interest of researchers and clinicians who have initiated investigations into the physiological (and psychological) effects of slow breathing techniques and attempted to uncover the underlying mechanisms. The aim of this article is to provide a comprehensive overview of normal respiratory physiology and the documented physiological effects of slow breathing techniques according to research in healthy humans. The review focuses on the physiological implications to the respiratory, cardiovascular, cardiorespiratory and autonomic nervous systems, with particular focus on diaphragm activity, ventilation efficiency, haemodynamics, heart rate variability, cardiorespiratory coupling, respiratory sinus arrhythmia and sympathovagal balance. The review ends with a brief discussion of the potential clinical implications of slow breathing techniques. This is a topic that warrants further research, understanding and discussion.
• Slow breathing practices have gained popularity in the western world due to their claimed health benefits, yet remain relatively untouched by the medical community.
• Investigations into the physiological effects of slow breathing have uncovered significant effects on the respiratory, cardiovascular, cardiorespiratory and autonomic nervous systems.
• Key findings include effects on respiratory muscle activity, ventilation efficiency, chemoreflex and baroreflex sensitivity, heart rate variability, blood flow dynamics, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, cardiorespiratory coupling, and sympathovagal balance.
• There appears to be potential for use of controlled slow breathing techniques as a means of optimising physiological parameters that appear to be associated with health and longevity, and that may extend to disease states; however, there is a dire need for further research into the area.
A Workout to Increase Oxygen Capacity
So how would this type of oxygen-capacity-improving workout actually be structured? Here’s a sample bicycle workout to increase oxygen capacity:
Warm-up 5-10 minutes by pedaling easy.
Prepare the body for the oxygen capacity efforts by doing five hard 30 second efforts, each separated by 60 seconds of recovery.
Now, on to the good stuff! Perform three to five efforts of three to five minutes of very hard pedaling, with three to five minute of easy pedaling after each effort. Each of the hard pedaling efforts should be at your maximum sustainable pace.
Cool-down until you’re breathing easy.