Ever catch yourself holding your breath as you walk across a busy road, subconsciously dodging the Big Smoke’s smoke? Find yourself dashing here and there with quick steps and short breaths? Not breathing while texting or checking your phone? Breathing expert, Aimee Hartley, reveals some tips for going deeper – and the best spots in London for a fresh lung-full!
With the fast pace of life and London topping the charts as one of the most polluted cities in Europe, how can we learn to adopt healthier breathing habits and where’s best to do so?
Since the act of breathing affects the functioning of each and everyone of our 37.2 trillion cells and the physiology of the entire body, it is no surprise that improper breathing is a contributory factor to ill health. Luckily, breathing is one of the body’s only actions which is both voluntary and involuntary and therefore breathing is something we can learn to improve and have some control over.
The diaphragm is a large dense muscle found between the chest and the abdomen and is the primary muscle in the respiratory system. Diaphragmatic breathing is paramount to improving your breathing and boosting your ability to rid the body of toxins. Here is an introduction to some cutting edge breathwork to help you connect with your abdominal breath, and in turn release both tension and toxins from the body.
Undress the Stress: Transformational Breath is one of the world’s most cutting edge breath work techniques to date and it’s a great beginners practice to engage in deep abdominal breathing. Here’s a little taster you can practice on your own:
- Make sure you are lying down with your chest being slightly higher than your legs.
- Make sure you are warm and comfortable, and that your head and neck are properly supported. Have your hands on your lower abdomen – a few inches below the navel.
- Relax the jaw and open the mouth wide and take a deep inhalation, belly should rise like a balloon (this may take some practice), and exhale with a quick sigh. Breathing in, Belly out! Practice until the abdomen is rising fully on the inhale.
- Keep all your focus on the inhalation. Inhalation should be about three times as long as the exhalation.
- Exhalation should be a quiet and relaxed. A simple soft sigh.
- Keep the breath connected so no pauses between breaths.
- Repeat only for about 3 minutes and notice any physical sensations in the body.
Remember, breathing in the belly should rise. This can take some practice. Rest for one minute as you return to a normal breathing pattern – breathing through the nose.
Once you’ve learned to breathe deeply, from a trained breathworker, yoga or meditation teacher, here are the top 5 best places in London to practice deep breathing exercises. The best quality air is away from traffic and near greenery, so these parks and gardens are some of the cleanest and greenest in the City:
- Hampstead Heath: pick the highest, quietest spot, preferably under a tree
- Isabella Plantation, Richmond: a traffic free oasis
- Kyoto Garden, Holland Park: Zen like gardens perfect for meditation
- Victoria Park: Plenty of trees to lie under and a private patch near the pagoda
- Greenwich Park: an expansive space with plenty of space to breathe
Aimee Hartley is the owner of www.thebreathingroom.co.uk. She studied and qualified as a Transformational Breath® Facilitator and Workshop presenter with Dr Judith Kravitz, Founder of Transformational Breath Foundation in Italy and the US. She currently offers private Transformational Breath sessions and workshops in London. A qualified Professional Yoga Teacher she has taught in the UK, Australia and South East Asia over the past 8 years.