How to transform your breathing with The Breathing Tree
Meet Rebecca Dennis
Author, qualified breath coach and workshop leader, Rebecca Dennis is the founder of The Breathing Tree. Based in London, she studied Transformational Breath with founder Judith Kravitz, and specialises in treating issues such as stress, anxiety, addiction, depression, trauma, sleeping, lack of energy and physical problems. Rebecca has featured in BBC Radio, Tatler, Country and Townhouse, The Telegraph, Grazia and Psychologies, Harper’s Bazaar and Style Magazine. A huge advocate of the importance of breath and it's transformational properties after changing her own life, Rebecca has shared an easy-to-follow breathing exercise and why you should focus on your own breath.
We teach our young to walk, communicate, bathe, eat and socialise, yet educating them about the healing power of their breath is not a priority. I would like to see this change and want to encourage people to be aware of their breath and share the multitude of wonderful benefits that emerge from breathing consciously. How we breathe is indicative of how we can feel more connected and feel about life. Our breath correlates with every emotion, experience and thought.
How to transform your breath
Transformational Breath is an active exercise that uses the breath to release tension within the body. Unlike other technniques, Transformational Breath demands no pause between inhale and exhale. And, on an emotional level, the emphasis is on outpouring rather than control.
Step One: Find somewhere quiet and peaceful where you can relax. I recommend either lying down or sitting on a comfortable chair with your back supported.
Step Two: Try to become the observer of your feelings and notice where your breath is.
Step Three: Take some deep diaphragmatic breaths into the belly, inhaling deeply through the nose and out of the mouth with a little pause in between. The ideal breathing technique is a deep breath in through the mouth while inflating the abdomen and a gentle sigh out on the exhale. Almost like you are misting a mirror.
Step Four: Breathe slowly and deeply while envisaging filling your lungs from bottom to top – first by expanding the abdomen, then the middle rib cage and finally the upper chest. Exhale in reverse order.
Step Five: Repeat this for at least 1-2 minutes, I like to focus on the breath for around ten minutes to relax.
This is a great exercise to try at home, if you attend a transformational breathing workshop the breathing coach may apply acupressure – an alternative therapy that uses pressure points to release blockages and emotional trauma.
The benefits of transformational breathing
Breath detoxifies, releases toxins and strengthens the immune system
Carbon dioxide is a natural waste product of your body’s metabolism, so around 70% of toxins are released through the breath. Breathing deeply helps the systems in the body to process the carbon dioxide more efficiently.
Breath increases energy
We can go with no food for up to 40 days and without water for three, yet we can die after just a few minutes of not breathing. Oxygen is vital for energy, it is the most essential natural resource required by our cells, so ensuring we take time to breathe can change your mind set and productivity levels.
Breath improves the respiratory system
Breathing deeply helps to release tension in the diaphragm and primary breathing muscles, relieving many long-term respiratory issues such as asthma and breathlessness. This is because breathing properly opens up the chest, releasing tension within the intercostal muscles, allowing for a more relaxed posture.
Breath calms the nervous system
Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system to bring us into a more relaxed state.
Breath strengthens the lymphatic system
The lymphatic system depends on gravity, muscle movement and breathing to cleanse the body. Deep breathing plays an important role in protecting the body from bacteria, viruses and other threats to our health.
Breath releases muscle tension
When we are stressed or experience uncomfortable feelings such as anger or pain, our breath becomes shallow and our muscle tissues contract. Just taking a few seconds to breathe properly can relax the body and calm you down.
Breath improves the cardiovascular system
Deep diaphragmatic breathing tones, massages and increases circulation to the heart, liver, and brain. In one study of heart attack patients, it was found that 100% of the patients were chest breathers whose breathing involved no diaphragm or belly expansion. An alternative study found that patients who adopted breath training experienced a 50% reduction in their risk factor of another heart attack over the following five years.
Breath elevates the digestive system
Deeper breathing results in an increased blood flow in the digestive tract which encourages optimum digestion.
Breath affects our mental state
The quality of our breath helps to relax the mind and enhances the ability to learn, focus, concentrate and memorise. The brain requires a great deal of oxygen to function, and increased intake of oxygen helps us to achieve clarity, feel grounded and productive. Breathing properly can honestly relieve stress, anxiety, depression and negative thought patterns.
Breath keeps us looking youthful
It’s a universal truth that a happy face is more beautiful than a stressed or angry one. Even better news, breathing deeply slows the ageing process by increasing the production of anti-ageing hormones. A 2013 study by Harvard Medical School showed that people who meditate daily for four years have longer telomeres (the protective caps found on the end of chromosomes) than those who do not. Short telomeres have been linked to premature cellular ageing.
Is there anything the breath cannot do?
In a word, no. Good breathing helps us feel more confident and able to let go of old belief systems and negative thought patterns. By expanding our awareness inside, breathing has a spiritual effect, creating inner peace and leading us to higher states of consciousness. As if that isn’t enough, it can also reinvigorate sexual energy, deepen creative expression, improve sleep patterns and lower blood pressure.
Three burning questions
Describe your morning routine?
I like to get up before the rest of the household. This is my time to practice breath work and set intentions for my day. Just 10 minutes helps me to reset, feel energised and productive. I will then make a green smoothie followed by a cup of Earl Grey.
Your favourite workout and why?
I love to run through the woods near my house and listen to music. I get my best ideas and inspiration when I am running, it's my meditation and keeps me grounded.
Top three tips for every day self-care?
SLOW DOWN - Sometimes when we're stressed out we literally forget to take a breath. This is where conscious breathing comes in as effective methods of reducing stress and pain. There's a lot of pressure in today’s society for everyone to perform at a fast pace. Take time to appreciate the now and be more in the moment.
BREATHE - When we breathe deeply into our belly and practice deep diaphragmatic breathing, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system which helps us to relax. Inhale and feel your belly expand and pull the tummy in as you exhale, you can do this anywhere. I recommend trying to do this around three times a week.
EXERCISE - Do some form of exercise be it walking, running, swimming or yoga. Even if you manage to move for 15 minutes a day your body will thank you.
Find out more about Rebecca and The Breathing Tree here and discover her book And Breathe here. Join us for your fittest January ever at sweatybetty.com/31daystofit with exclusive workouts, wellness tips, exclusive recipes and more. Share your workout selfies, recipe snaps and tag your friends with #31DaysToFit.