If you google “Blue Monday,” you’ll find out that it’s the third Monday of January and there’s quantifiable evidence which suggests that it’s the most depressing day of the year for many people. Some feel their New Year’s resolutions haven’t lifted off the ground, others are experiencing the winter doldrums post-holidays, there are myriad reasons why Blue Monday is tough…and it’s also likely that those stressors are even more pronounced this year.
While many distressing issues are out of our control, there is one thing we can do in this moment to quite literally calm our nervous system and usher in a lighter shade of blue to our milieu. Focus on breathing. Deeply calming, luxurious breathing.
There are two types of breathing: chest and diaphragmatic. Diaphragmatic breathing is the most efficient means of respiration. (It’s also the one that lowers stress levels significantly.) The diaphragm is a flat, parachute-shaped muscle at the bottom of the lungs. As you inhale, this muscle contracts, drawing air into the lungs. This diaphragmatic action is important, as it pulls air into the lower lobes of the lungs first. The blood supply to the lower lobes is gravity dependent, so that while we are upright there is far more blood available for oxygen exchange in the lower parts of the lungs. It is for this reason that diaphragmatic breathing, which draws air into the lower regions, is such an essential component of optimal exercise breathing and stress reduction.
Most people breathe mainly in the chest by expanding and lifting the rib cage via the inter- costal muscles. This action is more difficult than diaphragmatic breathing and requires more work and a higher heart rate, to perform. Chest breathing fills the middle and upper portions of the lungs but doesn't efficiently engage the blood-rich lower lobes.
In order to perform this lower-lobe breathing, the abdominals should not be 'pulled-in' or kept tight. During inhalation, the lower rib cage expands and the abdomen feels protruded. When exhaling, the lungs recoil and the abdominals retract naturally. When coaching your students (or practicing yourself), refrain from using the cues or thoughts like "pull the abs in" or "keep the abs tight," which will hinder optimal performance breathing.
In order to change from inefficient mouth breathing to efficient nose breathing, you need to be willing to take a couple of steps backward and be patient while getting accustomed to breathing through your nose. Realize that your intensity will decrease dramatically as you make this adjustment. As you begin nose breathing, you will feel like you aren't getting enough air into your lungs. With practice, you will realize that you are replacing quantity with quality. Give yourself a few months of nose practice and you will begin to experience a drop in heart rate without sacrificing exercise intensity along with a new sense of calmness and focus.
Exclusive offer for our community!
If a focus on your breathing sounds like a good stress reduction step, you are in for a next-level treat. In honor of you taking time for you on Blue Monday, the team behind meditation app, Aura, has graciously offered our community a 30-day free trial of the app, as well as 30% off a yearlong subscription thereafter. Aura is your one-stop shop for emotional health, providing mindfulness meditations, life coaching, stories and music, all personalized to you in order to reduce stress and anxiety, and improve focus and sleep.
To activate your one-month free trial and unlock 30% off a yearlong subscription, visit http://aurahealth.io/partners/spinning, create an account and enter your credit card details. You won’t be charged until AFTER your 30-day free trial. You’ll be texted a link to download the app and once you’ve logged in, Aura will ask you a few questions about yourself and what kind of content you’re interested in, then will recommend a mindfulness practice for you. After your 30-day free trial, $41.99 will be billed for the year (usually $59.99). Cancel anytime. No questions asked.