I heard this on a podcast recently. I’d never heard it before. Never considered that there was an optimum number of breaths a minute. And that that number may be as low as six.
I’ve only ever really thought about breathing when I’m struggling for breath running up a hill or counting my breath on a yoga mat. The rest of the time I simply breathe.
I was prescribed medication a few years ago to slow my heart rate. Beta blockers. I was suffering from physical symptoms of anxiety and slowing my heart rate slowed my breathing and alleviated some of these physical symptoms. I never thought about actually training myself to slow my breathing myself.
Proper breathing is as important for the mind as for the body, it seems. That’s why we tell people to focus on their breathing before an interview or a performance. Breathing slowly calms the nerves.
Stop for a minute and count how many breaths you take in sixty seconds. The average is twelve to eighteen. You’re aiming at six. Focus on the flow of breath all the way down into your body and out again. Try counting the length of each breath. To take six breaths a minute, each breath needs to be ten seconds long. That means inhaling for five seconds and exhaling for five seconds (or thereabouts – often, people find it easier to establish a breathing pattern where the exhalation is slightly longer than the inhalation…so breathing in for four and out for six might work better for you). It seems more manageable when broken down like that, doesn’t it?
Some of you may be asking why. Why bother? Why not just breathe?
Well, try it and you may answer the question for yourself. Slowing your breathing can relax you physically and mentally. Pretty much instantly. And it is proven to slow down the heart rate, lower blood pressure, raise immunity, alleviate depression and stress. Although that will obviously take a little longer to improve.
Of course, physical exertion or a sudden shock will make us breathe much faster. It’s how quickly we can get back to a slower rate of breathing that counts.
So at any point of the day, have a go. Anyone can do this. You can do it anywhere. Standing in a queue. Waiting at traffic lights. In the shower. Waiting for the kettle to boil. When you lie down in bed at night.
Slow your breathing. And see the difference.