Do you want to be a better parent? Chances are, the answer is “yes”. After all, as parents we are always looking out for the wellness of our children–and that especially includes our own interactions with them.
What if I told you that simple deep breathing exercises can vastly improve your parenting skills?
Not convinced? Read on to learn how this simple technique can make you a better parent.
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Good Versus Better Breathing
Breathing is something that we take for granted. We’re potentially not even conscious of it, yet it is a key ingredient to human function and performance.
Breathing is a human reflex we’re born with; it’s attached to our nervous system, which has an input and an output. As a parent you most likely cried with joy at your kids first screaming breath; that very moment changing your life forever.
Most likely, though, no one told you as you dove into the art of parenthood that your breathing patterns have a profound affect on us.
If you have poor breathing patterns (input), you’ll have poor motor output, which can result in muscle compensations, stress and even possible injuries.
Breathing plays a huge role in optimal nervous system function, proper motor function, relaxation, focus, and efficiency.
Today I’m going to take you on a journey into what deep breathing is all about. You’ll learn how it is congruent with less-stressed parenting, and how to go about fitting that in with everything else you have to juggle.
Two Types of Breathing
There are two types of breathing:
- Diaphragmatic breathing is the most natural way in which the breath utilizes the deep muscles allowing the spine to be stable and mobile. This type of breathing comes from the rib cage and allows the lungs to expand top to bottom, front to back and to each side.
- Chest breathing (also known as apical breathing) refers to a pattern of breathing where the movement is confined to the upper chest. This type of breathing results from fewer muscles being utilized, so the muscles that are used (upper chest, neck and shoulders) undergo more stress and more movement to facilitate the breathing rhythms.
Deep breathing is not simply expanding your breath as much as possible. Deep breathing is actually defined above as ‘diaphragmatic breathing’.
“Your posture and presence is everything; how you hold yourself determines how your connect to yourself, others and the world around you.”
The diaphragm is a dome shaped band of connective tissue that sits under the ribcage. It helps to draw air into the lungs and the belly when one is taking a full breath, and it massages the body’s organs as it drops down.
The diaphragm is a storehouse for emotional tension, stress, and anxiety.
As our posture changes to a more forward folding movement, such as while sitting or driving for extended periods of time, the diaphragm is ‘locked down’ or becomes ‘stuck’. Similarly the pressures and postures put on a woman’s body throughout pregnancy and during the post-natal period is an example of this.
We go through our lives and forget to breathe into the belly at rest, the sympathetic nervous system of fight/flight and freeze is activated.
The diaphragm and breathing has a direct link to the nervous system.
Carrying out deep diaphragmatic breathing can assist you, your family and your kids to overcome the stresses of everyday life. You be able to live more vitally with more energy, better posture and less pain.
How to Breathe Better
To really get the best from your deep breathing exercises, it is wise to first understand the three main components of deep breathing:
- Opening up the chest
- Releasing the diaphragm
- Practicing the breath work
I’ve made a video that you can watch below, or follow the written instructions underneath the video.
- Open the chest by applying medium to hard pressure to the sternum area using your fingers or a lacrosse ball. Then use your fingers/the ball to ‘shift the skin’ by dragging your chosen implement back and forth. This can be a little painful but can massively assist reduction in neck/shoulder pain so I truly recommend it. Watch the video if you’d like more clarity on exactly how to do this.
- Release the diaphragm by doing the same ‘shifting the skin’ at the edge of the ribcage 1-2 inches below the sternum. This is where the diaphragm sits. By doing so you’re inviting movement in the tissues (muscles & fascia) of the diaphragm and surrounding area.
- Practice the breath work by first placing one hand on your chest and one hand on your tummy just below your ribs. Practice breathing into your lower hand and keeping the upper hand immobile. Once confident in practicing this type of breath you can add ‘resistance’ to your breath by sucking air through your fingers as you breathe.
Go Deep with Ease
Keep these tips in mind when you’re practicing diaphragmatic/deep breathing:
- It can take some time to relearn how to breathe. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Take some time each day to practice this exercise. The nice thing is, you can do it anywhere.
- Try to practice at a time when you’re already relaxed. This will make it easier to take deeper breaths.
- If you’re having trouble taking deep breaths, try going to the hand on chest and hand on tummy breath. Aim to keep the hand on your chest immobile as you breath into the lower hand on your tummy.
- Practice taking 5 breaths each morning as you rest in bed. For each breath count in for a count of 3, hold for a second then breathe out for a count of 4.
- In time and with practice you will get an idea about how long you need to practice deep breathing exercises to reduce stress. Early on it may be helpful to set a particular time limit, for example, 5 breaths if you’re pressed for time.
- Keep in mind that it’s usually more effective to practice several shorter periods of deep breathing rather than single long episodes of deep breathing. Practicing more often also helps you to easily incorporate deep breathing as a habit into your lifestyle.
Take a Deep Breath and Improve Your Parenting
Deep breathing is just one method of reducing–or at least coping with–stress in your life; but, there are many stress management techniques that may help you live with more joy and less worry every day.
It is something that can easily be practiced in minimal time. I suggest aiming to commit to just 5 breaths each day after the chest opening and diaphragm release.
Doing those two things in conjunction with deep breathing will massively help you to feel less stressed, more comfortable and at ease throughout your day.
Even better, encourage the idea that a stress management lifestyle can be a family affair!
Try some of the practices mentioned above with your children along with yourself so that everyone can reap the benefits of deep breathing.
Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com