We breath every day, but did you know that we can use our breath to reduce our stress, anxiety and also to ground ourselves? We’ve had exclusive access to Katie Brindle, a fully qualified Chinese medicine practitioner and founder of The Hayo’u Method. She is committed to increasing awareness of this ancient wisdom and encouraging people to master their own health.
Here’s what Katie said…
Breathing is a vital function that marks the start and end points of our lives. You can live for weeks without food and for days without water, but you can live for only minutes without breathing. Therefore, it stands to reason that breathing is the most immediate self-healing cure we have. It is at once so profound, so subconscious and so crucial to our very existence. Yet we barely use it to our advantage.
Taoist masters understood the crucial importance of deep breathing and movement to self-treat without the need for anything else. This is how Qigong was born – and it’s one of the pillars of Chinese medicine.
I lead with breath work every day as the basis of my live Qigong class. Qigong translates as ‘life force practice’ – it’s made up of sequences of flowing movements where the body, mind and breath are coordinated and relaxed.
Breath is THE antidote to stress. Why is breathing deeply so important? Microforms (such as bacteria and fungi) cause acidity in the body – and they love anaerobic environments (those without oxygen). If you oxygenate yourself sufficiently, it becomes harder for acidity to thrive.
Short Breaths vs Deep Breathing
Whilst it’s the default for most of us, by shallow breathing we are really missing a trick. Deep abdominal breathing can neutralise the pH balance and promotes a relaxed state, whereas shallow and superficial breathing can lead to an acidic pH balance and stress in the body. It’s a major cause of low vitality and insufficient metabolism, as breathing controls cellular respiration.
Chinese wisdom places huge importance on breathing because it is one of the two major ways we create quality Qi and blood.
The simple practice of deep breathing is an easy and effective antidote to chronic stress, one that requires neither drugs nor doctors. The Chinese practice sitting in stillness and silence for a while and breathing deep into the abdomen. This automatically switches the nervous system over from the active yang phase to the calming, restorative yin phase.
Deep abdominal breathing should lead to a more alkaline pH and relaxed state. Done slowly and mindfully, deep breathing will also affect the nervous system to relieve stress and anxiety. It works by triggering the release of neurohormones, which inhibit stress-producing hormones and result in a relaxation response in the body.
2 Breathing Exercises to Try
There are endless breath techniques, but to start I will just recommend two!
Firstly, the Rescue Breath. This is based on an ancient Chinese technique called the Inner Smile.
1. Simply hold your hands over the belly and focus your attention there.
2. Next, imagine a smile. Why? This sends positivity to the whole area. Imagining a smile tricks our constantly chattering ‘monkey mind’ into focusing positively into our centre, one breath at a time.
3. And now, take a long, relaxed breath. This breath calms you, instantly moving awareness and energy out of the head and deeply into the energetic centre of the body.
The Chinese Art of Self-Healing
Another of the simplest and most effective are the 6 Healing Sounds, which I talk about in my book, Yang Sheng – the Chinese Art of Self-Healing. This is one of the oldest forms of breath therapy. It’s becoming better known now, probably because it’s so brilliant. You can find a demo on my site.
Once you have mastered that first step there is a world of breathwork techniques that you can learn, we offer free classes and lives on @hayoufit / www.hayoufit.com with our incredible teacher Sandra. I’d highly recommend the 3 treasures breathwork course.
Finally, of course, I have to mention THE best and most fun breath exercise is Laughter Qigong! In one of my favourite books, the Eight Immortal Healers, Master Mantak Chia says:
‘The act of laughing, whether natural or artificially induced, causes the production and release of literally hundreds of different chemicals that assist in healing the body and releasing stress…’
Aside from being incredibly funny and joyous and the surprise hit of our qigong sessions, it has multiple healing benefits:
- Improves your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
- Relieves pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce endorphins, its own natural painkillers.
- Improves your mood. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.
- Boosts Lymphatic drainage: Belly laughter causes your diaphragm to act as a pump for your lymphatic circulation.
- Stimulates the organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
- Deactivates your stress response. Laughter immediately relaxes you – your blood pressure drops, and your heart rate slows.
- Soothes tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Give it a try! You can join Katie for her free morning Qigong class at 8am weekdays on Instagram.