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Breathe better (with breathing exercises)

by Kate Binnie, Life of Breath Researcher

Breathe by Fabian Møller on UnsplashA key theme of the exhibition is that the way we breathe can change the way we feel. Here Kate Binnie (Senior Research Associate, Life of Breath project) introduces some simple breathing exercises that you can try now or download for later.

Breath is so much more than an autonomic function.  Across cultures and traditions, breath is seen as a giver of life in a different way to – for example – blood circulation or kidney function. Breath is life and life is breath, beginning with the first inhalation at birth and ending with our last exhalation when we “expire” or die.   Many ancient traditions suggest (and contemporary science supports) that when we begin to breathe consciously and spaciously, something quietly remarkable begins to happen in the body and mind, supporting us to become more calm, present and focused.  So let’s try three short, simple breathing practices and notice how it feels.

Cleansing Breath (Preparation)

Taken from the Tibetan tradition, this gentle practice aims to cleanse the body and mind using a conscious inhale through the nose (taking in something fresh, clean and light) and exhaling the “stuff” you can let go of through the mouth like a gentle sigh (sometimes visualised as dark smoke or impurities).  We sit with our hands on our lap or knees to do this practice.  Afterwards you might notice you feel a little fresher or lighter from the inside out.

Click play below to listed to the Cleansing Breath exercise

Click here to download an MP3 of the Cleansing Breath exercise


Anchoring Breath (Finding Steadiness Here & Now) 

This is a very simple practice where we drop out of the head (busy mind) into the feet and the body resting on the earth and seat.  We don’t worry about what the breath is doing – we just get right into the body and the breath regulates itself along the way.  This is a great short practice to use at any time (in the bus queue, while the kettle’s boiling, in a difficult situation) as no-one can see what you’re doing!

If you are affected by breathless, the anchoring breath is a great place to start.  Even if your breathing is restricted due to illness, long-held bodily tension or anxiety, you may be able to find more space and steadiness right now.   Stop at any time, and try not to “over think”.  The mind often gets in the way with our breathing……  Remember, there is no agenda, nothing to “get” or do right or wrong…..we’re just resting back for a short while, seeing if there is a little more space available, or a way back to a more trusting relationship with our breath and body.

Click play below to listed to the Anchoring Breath exercise

Click here to download an MP3 of the Anchoring Breath exercise


3-Part Breath (Exploring the Breath – Finding Space)

This practice develops our awareness of the different stages, depth and width of our breath.  We start by feeling the breath in the upper passages, then draw our awareness down deeper into the ribcage and belly, and then out into the whole body.  This is a great practice to do lying down if you need a rest, or to prepare for sleep.

Click play below to listed to the 3-Part Breath exercise

Click here to download an MP3 of the 3-Part Breath exercise

Breathing exercises created and read by Kate Binnie 

Photo by Fabian Møller on Unsplash

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