It can help reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and improve digestion and sleep, says Angie Klein
During menopause, every woman’s experience is different. That’s not surprising, given that there are at least 34 known symptoms. You might experience only minor issues, or you may feel debilitated by a range of physical and emotional symptoms that turn your life upside down.
Practising the perfect natural breath could change your life and help you deal better with menopause symptoms. It can aid in improving your immune and respiratory functions, your digestion and your sleeping patterns. It can also reduce blood pressure and anxiety.
What is the natural breath?
Let’s look at how we can explore and understand the natural breath.
Have you ever noticed that different states of mind and emotions are directly associated with distinct patterns of breathing? By releasing tension in the body and freeing up the breath, we can powerfully affect change both in the actual structure of our body and our state of mind. Relaxed and deep breathing has a direct impact on the parasympathetic nervous system, initiating a relaxation response.
For most people, breathing is unconscious. However, it can be restricted by patterns of tension brought about by the menopause, stress and poor posture, as well as reactive responses to everyday situations. After a while, these patterns of tension embed themselves in our physical and mental selves and, in so doing, consistently distort the natural breath.
We can learn the art of breathing correctly by observing a newborn baby. Their stomach gently rises and falls. As they inhale and exhale, they automatically breathe deeply into the belly. As we get older, this often changes.
Most of us breathe from the chest – and shallow breathing is usually caused by stress. This sends a signal to the brain that all is not well, and the fight-or-flight response kicks in. During the menopause, we can find ourselves continually in this state of fight or flight. As a result, we become used to holding our bodies in tension and with tension.
Alternatively, breathing with a more natural, longer, slower breath from the abdomen boosts respiration, ensures a rich supply of oxygen to the brain and signals that all is well. A controlled natural breathing can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and can alter the chemistry in the brain that could enhance focus and keep brains healthier for longer.
The first step to improving your breathing is to become aware of it. Initially you may notice you are holding your breath more than you realise, or taking shallow breaths. Breathing is subconscious: we do it all day every day and, most of the time, we don’t notice the breath. But it’s one of the only systems of the body we have some control over and that we have some ability to change.
Breath awareness is brilliant for bringing us into the present moment. We spend a lot of time mentally elsewhere but the breath can never be in the past or future. If we focus on our breath, we can connect back to the present moment where there’s no over-worrying or over-thinking. We can just be in the here and now.
Angie Klein is a yoga teacher. She trained at triyoga with Susannah Hoffman, Jeff Phenix and Carlos Pomeda, and is fully certified by the British Wheel of Yoga and Yoga Alliance; angieklein.yoga