I Went Back to School to Learn How to Breathe (No, Really)

I didn't know I was bad at breathing until I went to my very first yoga class about three years ago. Before then, I'd never really even thought about it, but as soon as the teacher instructed me to move from a downward dog on the exhale whilst moving into cobra during a pranayama alternate-nostril inhale (still clueless on that one), I knew that breathing just wasn't my forte.

It sounds silly, doesn't it? Obviously breathing is something our bodies do automatically; it's not thought involved. But as pollution rates grow greater than ever before and our bodies experience newly found levels of stress, very few of us are actually reaching our respiratory system's full potential. And considering poor respiration has been linked to things such as anxiety and other physical health issues, it's not really something we can, or should, overlook. 

Photo: H&M

Ever since that yoga class, I've had somewhat of a complex around my breathing. While I've never been more conscious of it, I still don't seem to be able to get it under control. And when my B12 deficiency caused a series of minor panic attacks last year, my breathing problem came into the fore again. 

So when I got wind (no pun intended) of a new app that promises to open up your full breathing potential, not even the £4 price tag could stop me from downloading it (and I'm someone that winced at the thought of spending £1 on the now essential Kira Kira app). 

Think of the app like a digital personal trainer for your breath. The Breath Guru, created by breath expert Alan Dolan, is essentially a toolkit to supercharge your respiratory system. First, you watch a series of videos where Dolan explains the theory and technique behind his breathing practice (more on that later), and then there are voice files that you work through every day in which you practice the breathing routines you've previously learned. It sounds complicated, but it's really not. 

I'll admit, at first, the skeptic in me did think How will what is fundamentally a glorified YouTube tutorial really change anything about my breathing complex? and I did have to deal with my boyfriend asking, "WTF are you doing?" on numerous occasions where he'd find me lying on the bed holding my stomach with my eyes shut. But it was on day five when I noticed a switch. A jam-packed tube carriage was no big deal (before, it would have been enough to send my lungs into overdrive) and even the signing of some pretty big mortgage documents didn't phase me, as I'd taken the time to train my breath just before.

According to Dolan, the benefits of conscious breathing are innumerable. "It's a safe way to infuse the body with oxygen and energy, recharging our own (often depleted) systems to work to their healing capacity," he reveals. If you've found yourself struggling to concentrate, focus or have been feeling sluggish lately, conscious breath could be the answer.

The app has really worked for me and is definitely worth a shot if you whether you have never thought about it or, like me, have breath anxiety. I'm still desperate for more knowledge, however, and so I asked Dolan to share his tips for breathing your way through certain situations. Keep scrolling to discover the techniques and may your breath be under control ever more.