Just the other day my 77-year-old mother was taking her blood pressure, and she was surprised to discover that it was much higher than normal.

Although she felt fine, she was a bit concerned and wanted to do something to lower it. So guess what she did?

Something so simple, cost-free and handy… You’d never think it would have such a powerful effect, but it did. 

Not only did it work to reduce her blood pressure significantly; it went down lower than her typical range.

Equally worth mentioning was the sense of empowerment she felt knowing that she can make a difference, anytime or anywhere on her health… simply by TAKING SLOW, DEEP BREATHS.

If there was one daily practise that could have a significant and positive impact on your life, you know what many experts would recommend? 

You guessed it: slow, intentional breathing.

Many people are stressed and carrying excess tension that is affecting their breathing patterns and efficiency and therefore their health, too.  

Breathing practises are a great way to take control of your breathing and retrain it.

This can be done anywhere, anytime, and will give you so much in return:

  • Greater Focus
  • Healthier Brain
  • Clearer Thinking
  • Calm and Relaxation
  • Longer Attention Span
  • Balanced Perspective
  • Happier Disposition
  • Positive Attitude

There are many forms of breath work, including those of the yogic traditions. However, a great starting point is simply to become aware of your own breath.

Cultivate your personal breath awareness as often as possible so you can catch when you are breathing quickly and shallowly. 

Here are some simple steps:

  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  2. Close your eyes or glance downwards.
  3. Observe your breath, as it is, without making adjustments.
  4. Focus on the rise and fall of your chest, the sensation in your nostrils, and the sound of your breath.

By placing your attention on these physical sensations, you are gathering useful information and bringing yourself into the present moment.

As you do this, you’ll probably notice that through the ‘power of presence’ stress starts to melt and you shift into a better balance.

With practise you’ll notice that you start to develop a partnership with your breath that is empowering, energizing, and uplifting.

Researchers at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and the Global Brain Health Institute say that focused breathing affects levels of noradrenaline, a natural brain chemical messenger.

Noradrenaline is released into the bloodstream when you are focused, curious, or emotionally aroused.  As well, it enhances your attention to detail and improves overall brain health by promoting the growth of new neural connections.

When you are stressed, too much noradrenaline is produced.  When you’re feeling lethargic, too little of it is produced. In both instances it becomes difficult to focus.

The researchers measured the breathing patterns of the participants, as well as their attention span and activity in the locus coeruleus which is an area in the brain stem where noradrenaline is made.

They found that those who focused effectively on a demanding task had better synchronization between their breathing patterns and attention, as opposed to those who had poor focus and inconsistent breathing patterns.

“This study has shown that as you breathe in, locus coeruleus activity is increasing slightly, and as you breathe out it decreases,” says Michael Melnychuk, PhD candidate at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and lead author of the study. “This means that our attention is influenced by our breath and that it rises and falls with the cycle of respiration. It is possible that by focusing on and regulating your breathing you can optimize your attention level and likewise, by focusing on your attention level, your breathing becomes more synchronized.”

So how can you benefit from ‘brain gains’ by becoming a better breather?

Personally I have a preference towards ‘Mindfulness Breathing.’ It helps to bring your attention to the present moment by experiencing the fullness of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, while observing the in-breath and out-breath without trying to change it.

In this way, your breath becomes a strategy to bring yourself into the present moment after your fleeting thoughts and feelings pass.

A typical session lasts 15 to 20 minutes, once a day. However, I recommend starting with 5 minutes per day and gradually lengthen the time as you feel comfortable.

Simple Breathing Technique:

  1. Inhale one continuous long breath.
  2. Pause and hold before exhaling.
  3. Exhale in a controlled, relaxed and continuous fashion.
  4. Pause after exhaling, just as you did for the first pause.
  5. Repeat the cycle over.

The added benefit of intentional breathing is that you are simultaneously developing a meditation practise!

Turns out that brains typically lose mass as they age.  However, research shows that is less so in the brains of long-term meditators and that these types of techniques actually strengthen brain networks.

So why wait when you can build your brain by breathing right now?  Literally.

To your Fit Brain and Fit Life,