…And Breathe! How Breathing Can Help our Health

Part of the work I do at Mind on Music is encouraging people to enhance their well-being with different exercises they can do themselves such as singing for health techniques. Before we even start to make a sound though, one of the simplest yet most effective (and probably my favourite) is working with our breath.

Across the world in different cultures, focusing on our breath is held as highly important. In Hindu culture, and so in yoga, the breath is called Prana and the focus on it- Pranayama. A lot of the exercises I do with the groups I work with are inspired by and based on yogic traditions. I am not a trained yoga teacher and do not claim to be able to teach yoga. However, we all learn from our daily lives and because I do so much yoga, I incorporate the things I’m inspired by along the way into my self-practice and also into the activities I bring to the groups.19398978_10155394488934414_355127316_n.jpg

One of the best methods of breathing work I’ve found is simply to count our in and out breaths, aiming to increase the length of time we can breath in and then exhale for.

Start with four beats in and four out, with a little pause in between and gradually increase this as you feel ready to. This will slow the breath down, in turn slowing your heart rate and bringing you into a calmer, more peaceful feeling. This is a very old and well-known way of stilling ourselves, yet in our busy lives we forget even how to breathe properly!

This way of breathing has us concentrate so that we can also begin to breathe fully, as many of us live taking in shallow, half-breaths. To breathe deeply, expand your whole abdomen so that your diaphragm (the muscle just at the base of our lungs) contracts and pushes your stomach forward.

It can take some time to strengthen our diaphragms as it is a muscle so just like we wouldn’t expect to lift heavy weight immediately, it can be an ongoing process before we can breathe in this way. But by focusing on it for a few minutes each day, this will be a great start towards making your respiratory system stronger and more resistant to illness, so hopefully avoiding the many colds that go round!

Breathing techniques are great for those with Asthma, COPD, and other cardiovascular problems too. They can also be very helpful for those with chronic pain as the slowing of heart rate can reduce pain as well as the attention being diverted for a time too.

Give the above technique a go this evening and see how you feel. You might want to go out in nature or create a healing space in your home with your favourite, relaxing things around you such as having a bath or a natural candle. That said though, you need no special equipment, only the space that you currently occupy and you don’t even need a quiet room, though to begin with you may prefer to be alone.

I would just say that if you do have any illness, please consult your doctor if you feel the need to do so before trying anything new and if you begin to feel dizzy or out of breath whilst undertaking the work, then do take a break or stop.

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Create Your Own Healing Space!

To recap:

  • Start with an in-breath for four counts, pause then an exhalation for four beats also.
  • Build this up slowly, adding a beat at a time until you feel you’ve reached your limit. With regular attention, you’ll notice this number rise over time!
  • To breathe fully, expand your stomach as you breathe so you’re using your diaphragm. Again, in time this will be easier!
  • You can begin this practice anywhere, but either outside in nature, or in a healing space you create can be extra special.

Thank you for reading, I’ll be sharing more techniques very soon so please do pop back!

Best Wishes,

Bexi

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How To Be The Most Energetic You Can Be!

A few people have asked me where I get so much energy from to be travelling, singing, speaking at events so much and all with no coffee haha! So I thought I’d share the ways I gather my energy so it might help you. We are all different but by sharing our practices, we can take what we find helpful and leave the rest, so please have a read and let me know if you have any ways you increase your energy!

I understand for those with chronic illness, it’s not as simple as some of the below tips sound, but they’re still worth a go because even if you think they won’t work, you’ve made a positive step towards loving and caring for yourself!

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  • Food! If you’re on my Instagram, then you’ll know I follow a vegan diet. The reason I started was for ethical reasons concerning animals and environment, but the health benefits have been incredible! My skin cleared up, my head feels lighter too and I no longer need coffee to keep me going throughout the day. I eat a lot of fruit and veg and I love smoothies. Find me on instagram to see some of my food postings. I’m not here to judge, I was twenty years old before I went vegetarian and then another several years before veganism so only speak from my experience that switching to a plant based diet has worked wonders for my energy and health. It’s really important to ensure with any way you eat that your nutrient levels are all in tune with your own body. Tiredness can be caused by deficiencies in B12, calcium, Vit D and magnesium amongst other things so it’s a good idea to get these in order if you’re feeling low on energy.
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Smoothies replaced my super strong coffee and I love them!!

  • Nurture yourself with Nature. Being in nature, for me, is one of my top energisers. A walk in the forest or on the beach can pick me up when I’m needing a boost and whatever energy I spend whilst walking is returned with more to spare.  It’s proven that the ions produced by water having a restorative effect on our health so anywhere near flowing water such as waterfalls or the beach is great to be, but of course anywhere outside and in a natural setting is going to do you good! Sunshine will boost your Vit D levels too which can help with tiredness, but of course wear sun protection where appropriate especially if you’re like me- a super pale red-head who needs factor 50!!
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Beautiful beach times from a recent trip to Ibiza.

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Swimming in the sea feels so natural and always boosts my energy!

  • Sort your sleep! We all know sleep is important for our bodies to restore and for our minds to wander into our dreamlands, but so many of us worry about it to the point that this worry stops us sleeping! For a time, I was waking about 4am every night, full of energy and excited for the day ahead. I would struggle to return to sleep and work my self up when I couldn’t. I decided to change my sleep pattern to stop myself worrying. I now sleep 5-7 hours during the night and have an extended nap in the afternoon. I later found this is called Bi-phasic sleep, and has been found to be a very healthful way to split our sleeping times as our 9-5 society way of living is not entirely natural to our bodies and minds. It is a challenge to achieve sometimes if I have to do a lot of daytime activities but it has improved my energy and sleeping as I no longer worry about being tired because I know I have a second sleep to follow!

 

  • Resting. This is different to sleep. People think they only need to rest when they are in bed but this isn’t so. Being still and quiet is vital to our health and to keep us connected with our body so we are aware of everything that’s going on and know to make adjustments if necessary. Paradoxically, you can rest whilst being active. For me, Yoga is a very restoring practise and even though I work hard and the postures are often physically demanding, I find it a very restful, peaceful thing to do too.

 

  • Avoid energy drainers! These come in a variety of forms, from too much time on the internet, to being around people who are always negative. Comparing yourself to others on social media is one of the biggest wastes of energy there is. It leaves you feeling lethargic and low. Limit your internet use to basic email checking for a while and see how you feel. When I do this my head is less foggy, my spirit brighter and I feel so much happier. Don’t worry about what others are doing. They are on their path and you are following yours.

 

  • Be creative. Singing, writing, getting my ideas out, all feed my soul and so increase my energy levels.  Using our natural talents (and we all have different innate ones) makes us feel purposeful and happy which feeds our spirit to increase our energy. I adore singing so much that I often turn up to a gig feeling tired and leave with an enormous buzz and feeling elated! Even singing on my own at home can do this, so try whatever creative pursuit you want to do and see if it does the same for you. Being creative with your environment can help too. Colours can energise or drain you, so my living areas are all bright, beautiful tangerines and decorated with all sorts of my favourite shades!
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Singing always gives me more energy!

 

  • Self healing. As well as creating more energy within ourselves, I fully believe we have the power to heal ourselves too and prevent our health from going too far down. This creates good health and so in turn more energy. Explore the alternative side to healing that medicine doesn’t offer… gentle therapies that can help if you open up to them. Music and Sound therapies, Acupuncture, Meditation- explore and find what you enjoy the most and go with it. Even if you find they don’t work for you, they are relaxing and enjoyable at the very least. Stress is a big energy drainer and the cause for so many health problems but it is something we have control over. Slowing breathing rate is the first step to overcoming it, breathing in for 5, pausing then out for 5 and repeat until you feel calmer.

 

I hope these little tips that I use have been helpful and healthful for you! Let me know how you get on, with a message or a comment, wishing you lots of energy!

 

Best Wishes,

Bexi