INHALE LIFE: DEEP BREATHING FOR WOMEN OVER 50

Welcome to "Inhale Life: Deep Breathing for Women Over 50." Have you ever wondered why this simple act of breathing through your nose can have such profound benefits, especially for women in their 50s and beyond?

As a woman well over 50 myself, I understand that this stage of life comes with unique challenges and changes.

I'm passionate about sharing how deep breathing for women, particularly through the nose, can bring relaxation, reduce stress, and support well-being during this transformative time.

Breathing through the nose isn't just beneficial for us, though. It's a practice that can benefit anyone - whether young or old, male or female - who wants to experience relief and wellness through mindful breathing techniques.

If you're new to deep breathing, you might initially think it's just a lot of "baloney." But trust me, the more you explore breathing methods, the more fascinating it becomes.

Graphic sign: spoiler alert

Spoiler alert: Breathing isn't just about getting air into your lungs - it affects your mental health, stress levels, cognitive sharpness, energy levels, and even your athletic performance!

In this blog, we'll dive into why deep breathing benefits women over 50. We'll emphasise the importance of mindfulness and breathwork in promoting overall health and well-being during this stage of life.

Let's start with nose breathing. Breathing through our mouth is common, but did you know nose breathing is much healthier? Stick around to find out why, and learn why nose breathing forms the foundation of all breathing techniques.

Disclaimer:
Certain individuals should exercise caution when practising breathing exercises. If you have:

* Respiratory conditions like asthma or COPD

* Cardiovascular issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), or a history of stroke

* Severe anxiety or panic disorders

* Are a child, pregnant, have suffered an injury, or undergone surgery


Please consult a healthcare professional before beginning any breathing exercises to ensure they are safe and suitable for your health needs. Your well-being is important, and personalized guidance is key to practising deep breathing effectively and safely.


UNDERSTANDING THE BENEFITS OF DEEP BREATHING

Do you ever feel like you can't catch your breath, or that stress is getting the best of you? Maybe daily tasks seem overwhelming, or you just need a moment to relax. Deep breathing could be the simple solution you're looking for.

Here are some benefits of deep breathing:

  • Stress Reduction and Relaxation: Deep breathing activates the body's relaxation response.
  • Improved Lung Capacity and Respiratory Function
  • Enhanced Focus and Mental Clarity
  • Better Sleep Quality: Deep breathing helps induce relaxation before bedtime, aiding sleep quality and benefiting those with insomnia or sleep issues.
  • Management of Menopausal Symptoms: Deep breathing can help with menopausal symptoms.
INHALE LIFE: DEEP BREATHING FOR WOMEN OVER 50

Deep breathing is a valuable tool that can improve overall well-being and provide relief from various symptoms, including those associated with menopause.

MENOPAUSE AND DEEP BREATHING:
BENEFITS FOR WOMEN OVER 50

Dealing with life's challenges can feel like a lot, especially as we get older and face new issues at 50 and beyond, especially for women in menopause.

The metabolic rate of women over 50 begins to decrease, and insufficient or poor-quality sleep can disrupt hormonal and metabolic processes, affecting appetite, energy levels, and weight management. It's essential to prioritise good sleep, healthy eating, and regular exercise for overall well-being.

Middle-aged woman lying in bed, reading a book

Hormonal changes, increased cardiovascular risks, muscle stiffness, joint pain, and sleep disturbances are common concerns during this stage of life.

The Heart Research Institute UK (HRI) reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the UK, especially those over 50.

Women in this age group must reduce stress levels, as chronic stress is associated with cardiovascular problems. Incorporating stress-reducing activities like deep breathing into daily routines is essential for maintaining heart health.

Deep breathing for women is beneficial in managing menopausal symptoms. Here's how it can help:

Breathing Exercises to Help Lungs - Improved Lung Capacity and Respiratory Function

Deep breathing helps improve respiratory function and lung capacity, which is particularly important for women over 50.

As women reach the age of 50 and beyond, they may experience a decline in lung size and capacity. Lung function naturally decreases with age, but this decline seems to accelerate during the transition to menopause.

Research shows that both lung size and lung function (FEV) decrease in women going through menopause and after, more than what is typically seen with normal ageing.

Reduction of Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

Deep breathing techniques that promote relaxation and stress reduction can help reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause.

By calming the nervous system, deep breathing mitigates the body's response to hormonal fluctuations.

Stress and Anxiety Relief

Menopause often brings increased stress and anxiety due to hormonal changes.

Deep breathing activates the body's relaxation response, lowering cortisol levels and promoting a sense of calm, which can alleviate anxiety and improve emotional well-being.

Women in Nature, eyes closed and breathing calmly

Improved Sleep Quality

Sleep disturbances are common during menopause. Deep breathing exercises before bedtime induce relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep and reducing night-time awakenings. Better sleep quality positively impacts mood and overall quality of life.

Enhanced Mood Regulation

Menopausal hormonal shifts can lead to mood swings and irritability. Deep breathing promotes mindfulness and emotional balance, helping regulate mood and promote a more positive outlook despite hormonal changes.

Support for Cognitive Function

Some women experience cognitive changes during menopause, such as forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating. Deep breathing techniques increase oxygen flow to the brain, supporting cognitive function and mental clarity.

Muscle Relaxation and Pain Relief

Menopausal women often experience muscle tension, joint pain, or headaches. Deep breathing encourages muscle relaxation and triggers the release of endorphins, providing natural pain relief and reducing physical discomfort.

Hormonal Balance

Deep breathing directly affects stress hormones like cortisol and indirectly supports hormonal balance by reducing stress levels. Managing stress through deep breathing can help maintain hormonal equilibrium during menopause.

Adding deep breathing to your daily routine during menopause can help things feel more balanced. It reduces stress, promotes relaxation, improves sleep quality, and supports emotional well-being.

These benefits contribute to a smoother transition through menopause, making you feel more centred and empowered during this important phase of life.

EXPLORING DEEP BREATHING FOR WOMEN:
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE BREATHE DEEPLY?

Deep breathing involves slow, deliberate inhalation and exhalation to achieve a full and relaxed breath.

Main Benefits

Let's break down what happens in our bodies
when we deep breathe in simpler terms:

More Oxygen

Deep breathing allows us to take in more oxygen from the air we breathe.

Transporting Oxygen

This oxygen enters our bloodstream and is carried by red blood cells to all parts of our body, providing energy.

Removing Carbon Dioxide

Deep exhalation releases carbon dioxide, a waste product produced by our cells, helping maintain our body's balance.

Better Lung Function

Deep breathing exercises enhance lung efficiency by engaging more of the small air sacs (alveoli) in our lungs.

Diaphragm Use

Deep breathing utilises the diaphragm muscle, expanding our chest to intake more air.

Relaxation and Calmness

Deep breathing triggers the body's relaxation response, slowing the heart rate and reducing stress.

CO2 Tolerance

CO2 tolerance can be improved through specific deep breathing practices that involve breath holds, also known as breath retention. When you hold your breath during deep breathing exercises, you increase the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in your body.

By practising holding our breath longer and taking slow, deep breaths, we improve our ability to handle carbon dioxide (CO2).

This is especially beneficial during stressful moments, as it helps prevent rapid breathing that can exacerbate stress. Improving CO2 tolerance enables us to maintain calmness and relaxation instead of feeling anxious or tense.

In summary, deep breathing enhances oxygen intake, removes waste carbon dioxide, optimises lung function, and promotes relaxation—a simple yet effective way to support overall health and well-being.

Why Nose Breathing Matters: Exploring Deep Breathing Through the Nose

When practising deep breathing, you have the option to breathe through your nose or mouth.

Nasal breathing is often preferred because your nasal passages filter, warm, and humidify the air before it reaches your lungs, making oxygen absorption more efficient and promoting a natural state of relaxation.

Nose breathing is especially beneficial for deep breathing as it optimises the air for your body's use.

However, using your mouth or a combination of both nose and mouth breathing can also benefit your overall health.

Breathing through your nose is considered important for several reasons, particularly compared to mouth breathing.

Part of a woman's face, showing nose and mouth

Here's why nose breathing is preferred over mouth breathing:

  • Air Filtration: It removes dust, germs, and allergens from the air before it enters your lungs.
  • Enhanced Air Quality: Your nose adds warmth and moisture to the air, which makes breathing easier on your lungs.
  • Improved Oxygen Absorption: Nasal breathing efficiently transfers oxygen into your bloodstream through blood vessels and special membranes. This process is less effective with mouth breathing.
  • Production of Nitric Oxide: Your nose produces nitric oxide, a gas that relaxes blood vessels and enhances oxygen delivery to tissues, which mouth breathing does not provide.
  • Supports Oral Health: Nasal breathing helps maintain proper mouth position and prevents dental issues.
  • Respiratory Protection: It guards against infections and keeps your breath fresh. Mouth breathing can increase the risk of respiratory infections, dry mouth, and bad breath.
  • pH Balance: Nose breathing aids in balancing your body's pH levels, crucial for overall health and oxygen distribution in tissues.
  • Stress Reduction: Nasal breathing triggers relaxation responses in the body by activating the diaphragm, lowering stress levels and anxiety. In contrast, excessive mouth breathing can heighten stress levels.

While it's okay to breathe through your mouth during exercise or when your nose is stuffy, try to make nasal breathing a habit in your daily life to enjoy all these wonderful benefits!

In summary, using your nose to breathe is vital for keeping your respiratory system healthy, supporting your immune system, and making you feel more relaxed.

BREATHWORK: 8 DEEP BREATHING TECHNIQUES
TO IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

Before you start doing any of these techniques you have to ensure that the position you are in is not hunched, as this will inhibit the expansion of your diaphragm. Sitting straight, head straight and not slouched. Or lie down, so you are relaxed.

The duration of a deep breathing exercise can vary depending on whether you are a beginner or more advanced in practising these techniques.

For beginners, it's recommended to start with shorter durations of deep breathing exercises, typically around 5-10 minutes per session.

The key is to start gradually and increase the duration as you become more experienced and comfortable with the technique. It's essential to listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too hard, especially when beginning a new practice.

Pink purple circle with wording 'Breathing Methods'

1. Diaphragmatic Breathing - Also Known as Abdominal or Belly Breathing

The most common deep breathing technique is diaphragmatic breathing. With diaphragmatic breathing, the goal is to engage the diaphragm fully.

This means allowing the belly to expand outward as you inhale deeply through your nose. This movement indicates that you are drawing air deeply into your lungs, filling them from the bottom up.

Diaphragmatic breathing, where your belly expands as you breathe in, is good for your body. It helps you take in more oxygen and relaxes you by engaging your body's natural relaxation system.

This kind of breathing can also ease tension in your chest and shoulders, make your lungs work better, and improve how well you breathe overall.

This technique involves deep inhalation where the diaphragm descends, allowing the lungs to fully expand. The belly expands outward during inhalation and contracts inward during exhalation.

2. Box Breathing or Square Breathing

Box breathing is a technique that involves a pattern of equal-length inhalation, holding the breath, exhalation, and holding the breath again, typically in counts of four.

Box breathing helps you to calm down your body and mind, and reduce anxiety. This breathing technique can sharpen your focus and concentration. It's great for when you need to clear your mind and stay on task.

Box breathing encourages deep inhalation, which brings more oxygen into your body. This can boost energy and overall well-being.

3. Relaxing Breathing - Also Know as 4-7-8 Breathing

In this technique, you inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. This cycle is repeated several times.

This technique helps activate the body's relaxation response, making it effective for reducing stress and anxiety. It is good for relaxation and trying to fall asleep.

But a quick word of warning: with this breathing technique, you need to hold your breath slightly longer, so it may not be suitable for everyone, especially if you have respiratory restrictions. Some people may feel light-headed or dizzy.

4. Alternate Nostril Breathing - Also Known as Nadi Shodhana in Yoga

This is a yogic breathing technique where you use your fingers to alternately block each nostril while breathing.

It is believed that ‘Alternate Nostril Breathing ’ helps balance your energy and clear your mind by working on the flow of energy in your body.

It's great for calming down and reducing stress, making you feel more relaxed. Moreover, it can make your breathing stronger and clearer over time.

When you do this, it helps open up your nasal passages and makes it easier to breathe. People also say it helps them concentrate better and improves focus.

5. Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing involves paying close attention to your breath without trying to change it. It focuses on being present in the moment and observing the natural rhythm of your breathing.

Mindful breathing is beneficial because it helps you tune in to the present moment and calm your mind. When you focus on your breath, you're practising mindfulness, which can reduce stress and anxiety.

It gives you a break from racing thoughts and distractions, promoting relaxation and mental clarity.

Mindful breathing also improves self-awareness and emotional regulation by connecting you with your body's natural rhythms. Over time, this practice can enhance overall well-being and resilience to life's challenges.

6. Pursed Lip Breathing

This technique involves inhaling through the nose and exhaling slowly through pursed lips as if blowing out a candle. It can help improve lung function and reduce shortness of breath.

But it can also be beneficial if you have respiratory issues like COPD. Pursed lip breathing can help keep airways open longer, preventing small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing prematurely.

It promotes relaxation by calming the nervous system and can enhance oxygen exchange, improving overall respiratory function and endurance.

7. Deep Relaxation Breathing - Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique combines deep breathing with progressive muscle relaxation, where you systematically tense and then relax different muscle groups while focusing on deep, slow breaths.

Deep relaxation breathing is beneficial because it activates the body's relaxation response, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. It can lower heart rate and blood pressure, promoting a sense of calmness and tranquillity.

Deep relaxation breathing also improves oxygenation of the blood and enhances lung function, which can be especially helpful for individuals with respiratory conditions.

8. Cyclic Sighing

Cyclic sighing involves taking one long breath followed by an extra inhalation before exhaling completely.

Just 5 minutes of cyclic breathing per day has shown to be more effective at boosting mood than mindfulness meditation and other breathwork techniques.

It also helps slow down breathing rate, reduce stress levels, promote calmness, lower resting heart rate, and improve sleep quality.

Try out different techniques to discover what works best for you, and then incorporate them into your daily routine as needed.

I'm including two additional videos featuring breathing techniques that can help you sleep more easily.

INTEGRATING BREATHING EXERCISES INTO DAILY LIFE

Here are practical ways to integrate deep breathing into your routine:

Morning Routine:

Start your day with a few minutes of deep breathing. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and practice diaphragmatic breathing or another technique of your choice to set a calm and focused tone for the day.

During Breaks:

Take short deep breathing breaks throughout the day, especially during stressful or busy periods. Spend a few minutes practising mindful breathing to reset and refresh your mind.

INHALE LIFE: DEEP BREATHING FOR WOMEN OVER 50

Before Sleep:

Wind down in the evening with deep breathing to promote relaxation and prepare for a restful sleep. Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique or progressive muscle relaxation combined with deep breaths

Incorporate into Activities:

Practice deep breathing during daily activities such as walking, stretching, or yoga. Coordinate your breath with movement to enhance mindfulness and deepen relaxation.

Stressful Situations:

Use deep breathing as a tool to manage stress in challenging situations. When feeling overwhelmed or anxious, take slow, deep breaths to calm your nervous system and regain composure.

Mindful Eating:

Practice deep breathing before meals to enhance digestion and promote mindful eating. Take a few deep breaths to relax before starting your meal.

Scheduled Sessions:

Set aside dedicated time each day for a longer deep breathing session. Use guided breathing exercises or meditation apps to deepen your practice and explore different techniques.

Incorporate with Other Practices:

Combine deep breathing with other wellness practices such as meditation, yoga, or progressive relaxation techniques for a holistic approach to self-care.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND SUPPORT FOR DEEP BREATHING

For individuals interested in exploring deep breathing techniques, here are some additional sources and resources that can be helpful:

  • Online Courses: Check out online courses or programs focused on deep breathing and relaxation.
  • Books and Publications: Some great books dive into deep breathing and its benefits. Look up titles like "Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art" by James Nestor*, or The Oxygen Advantage: The Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Techniques for a Healthier, Slimmer, Faster, and Fitter You, by Patrick McKeown*.
  • Mobile Apps: Try mindfulness or meditation apps like Headspace or Calm. They have guided sessions for beginners and more experienced folks.
  • YouTube Channels: Explore YouTube for wellness channels that offer free guided deep breathing exercises.
  • Local Classes or Workshops: Look for classes at community centres or yoga studios that focus on deep breathing and meditation.
  • Wellness Retreats: Consider attending a wellness retreat that focuses on mindfulness and breathing techniques.
  • Therapist or Counsellor: If you're dealing with specific anxiety or stress issues, consider seeing a therapist who knows about mindfulness-based therapies.

These choices can expand your experience with deep breathing to help you relax and relieve stress.

If you're interested in exploring the intricacies of breathing, I highly recommend the Huberman Lab podcast episode titled 'How to Breathe Correctly for Optimal Health, Mood, Learning and Performance’. This extensive podcast on Spotify, lasting over 2 hours, delves into various breathing topics, offering insights into breathing and exercises to improve your well-being.

Before you listen, if you found this article helpful, consider subscribing to Your Senior Journey for more tips and information.

Sharing this content on your social media can also benefit others.

Click the play button to start listening!

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DEEP BREATHING: YOUR TOP FAQ ANSWERED

I HAVE A NASAL ISSUE. HOW DOES THIS AFFECT MY ABILITY TO PRACTISE BREATHING TECHNIQUES?

If you have a blocked nose, it can be challenging to practice deep breathing through your nose. However, there are breathing exercises and techniques that can help open up your nasal passages and promote better airflow.

One technique you might be referring to is called "nasal breathing exercises" or "nasal capping." Here's some information about these techniques:

Nasal Breathing Exercises:
These exercises involve consciously focusing on breathing through your nose rather than your mouth. Nasal breathing helps warm, filter, and humidify the air before it reaches your lungs, which can be beneficial for respiratory health.


To perform nasal breathing exercises, sit comfortably and try to breathe in and out exclusively through your nose. You can start with slow, deep breaths, gradually increasing the depth and pace of your breathing.


This practice can help strengthen your nasal breathing pattern over time.

Nasal Capping (or Nasal Dilator):
Nasal capping refers to using a nasal dilator or nasal strip, which are external devices placed over the nostrils to help open up the nasal passages.


These devices work by gently widening the nostrils, reducing nasal resistance, and improving airflow.


Nasal capping can be particularly useful during exercise or sleep for individuals with nasal congestion or breathing difficulties. It may also facilitate nasal breathing and alleviate symptoms of nasal congestion.


This is NOT Advisable if you are pregnant or if you have high blood pressure

While nasal breathing exercises and nasal capping can be helpful, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional if you have chronic nasal congestion or respiratory issues.


They can provide recommendations and address underlying causes of nasal blockage or breathing difficulties.

When I go for a brisk walk, I usually keep my stomach tight. Is this okay, or should I relax my stomach instead?

When going for a brisk walk or doing any physical activity that involves engaging your core muscles, it's generally recommended to maintain a natural and supportive posture without excessively tightening your belly muscles.

So basically, here's what you should do:


Natural Posture:
During a brisk walk or exercise, focus on maintaining a natural posture with a stable core. Your abdominal muscles should be lightly engaged to support your body and help maintain balance and stability.


Avoid Excessive Tightening:
While it's important to have some level of core engagement to support your movements, avoid excessively tightening your belly muscles to the point of holding your breath or causing tension.


Overly tight muscles can restrict your breathing and limit your body's ability to move efficiently.


Breathing Naturally:
Allow your breathing to remain natural and rhythmic during exercise. Avoid holding your breath or creating unnecessary tension in your abdomen, which can hinder your performance and lead to discomfort.


Focus on Form:
Instead of focusing solely on tightening your belly, concentrate on maintaining proper form and alignment throughout your walk or workout.


Engage your core muscles to support your spine and posture without compromising your ability to breathe comfortably.


In summary, when brisk walking or engaging in physical activity, aim to strike a balance between maintaining core stability and allowing for natural, unrestricted breathing.

bREATHING exercises for COPD: Can you do deep breathing when you have asthma or COPD?

Certain deep breathing techniques, when done under supervision, can benefit individuals with respiratory conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by improving lung function and promoting relaxation.


Please check out the pursed lip breathing exercises. or the Deep Relaxation Breathing method.


Some techniques involving prolonged breath hold or forceful exhalations may not be suitable for everyone with respiratory issues.


Individuals with respiratory problems need to work with a healthcare professional to identify safe and effective breathing exercises that support respiratory function without triggering symptoms.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Writing this article was a joy and a revelation about the power of deep breathing for women. The benefits are remarkable, from improving lung capacity to improving sleep and enhancing alertness in challenging situations.

What's even better is that it doesn't require much time, and I've learned that nose breathing is far superior to mouth breathing. During my daily walks, I've found deep breathing to be incredibly relaxing and calming.

Moreover, practicing deep breathing exercises before bedtime has improved my ability to fall asleep and enjoy better quality rest.

I never used to prioritise deep breathing, but now I realise I can incorporate it easily while enjoying the outdoors - no need for soft music, just a mindful awareness of my breath to relieve the stress of a busy life.

Give it a try and prepare to be amazed. Deep breathing is right here for you!

Call to Action

Your feedback on deep breathing techniques is valuable. If you've tried other scientifically approved methods not covered here, share your experience in the comments section below.


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Birgit is a compassionate guide specializing in supporting senior women through life's transitions. Alongside her dedication to this cause, she finds joy in teaching piano, nurturing her garden, cherishing family moments, and enjoying walks. These activities fuel her creativity and bring depth and richness to her life.


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