…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

How Music can heal us: Part One

Welcome back!

This week I’d like to start talking about our current relationship with music. As some of you know, I run a music for well-being project called ‘Forget Me Never’ which started out as a way of helping those with Dementia but has since expanded to work with people living with other chronic illnesses such as Cancer, Chronic Pain and Mental Health Issues.

I truly believe music has the power to aid healing but that in our present society, this is not recognised. So much emphasis is placed on conventional medicine and whilst I would advise each of us to follow the path that feels right, no information is given about holistic healing practises and so how can people make an informed choice if they’re only supplied with half the information?

The proven benefits of music extend to and are not limited to;

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Lessened depression
  • Improved mood
  • Improved concentration

And I’m sure there are many more benefits that haven’t been officially recorded! Many studies have been done researching the effects music can have, including a recent 2015 study here in the UK at Brunel University that showed music reduces pain and therefore the need for strong painkillers in post-operative patients (Meads et al (2015) The Lancet)

We need to reclaim our lost practises. If we look to the past, to ancient cultures and those still active today in a traditional way, we find that nearly all of them make song and dance a key part of their philosophy. Yes we have music but it has been mutated into the form we find on the radio today, it’s far less of a communal experience and even the very tuning has been altered from its natural state so that what we hear sounds more dissonant and less natural than we would have experienced a century ago.

Our traditional culture has been erased. I was in a book shop the other day and found a book entitled “The History of Western Music” and thought it might be interesting. According to this book, the history of Western Music, our history of music, started with the Romans and Greeks and then nothing apparently happened until Mozart was born. This is NOT our history! Our past is a vibrant amalgamation of traditional cultures, of dancing and multiple instruments, all of which have been suppressed by the societal norms of today.

Singing is mainly elevated to a performance state, where one person is able to enjoy the act and others must sit in silence or have stern looks cast upon them! I never ask for silence at my gigs…singing, dancing and even chatting is actively encouraged as long as the atmosphere remains upbeat and joyful.

We can get this back though. It is not so lost that it will become a forgotten tale of times gone by. There are some incredibly talented musicians and artists working to piece back together our healing practises and enable us to progress in a natural manner and thus help ourselves. We can all do our bit though by supporting local music events, joining our choirs, encouraging school children to take up instruments and play for the love of it, not for fame and fortune but for the joy of mastering a skill. Or not mastering it perhaps because being bad at something doesn’t have to stop you loving it! I’m not a fantastic painter but I really like playing with colours and creating something and that’s the point of it, not necessarily the finished product.

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Embrace this creativity inside of you, sing sing sing! Do not be ashamed of your voice or hide it as it’s an expression of you, of your beautiful soul and so it should be beamed out as bright as your smile.

I have so much to share on this subject so this was just a small introduction, can’t wait to show you what music and sound can do!

Have a beautiful, musical week all!

Best Wishes,

Bexi

xx