Lockdown insomnia is not a myth. Many of us have experienced disrupted sleep patterns over the past two years. For midlife women, insomnia is already a challenging health symptom. It’s one of the many menopause symptoms that conscious breathing can help with.
Conscious breathing, commonly referred as breathwork, is the voluntary purposeful control of the breath. It involves changing the depth, rhythm and rate of your breath. This hacks the messages transmitted from the respiratory system to the brain.
Whatever your motivation for practicing, from easing lockdown insomnia to creating instant calm, boosting energy or calming hot flushes, there are conscious breathing exercises that can help.
Breathing my own way to calm
My personal transformation from a devastating burn-out back to complete health and wellbeing were made possible by conscious breathing and mindfulness. The astonishing transformations I saw in myself, and my clients, inspired me to create my own system of Transformational Conscious Breathing®. A synthesis of conscious breathing and mindfulness, it also includes other scientifically proven relaxation techniques such as movement, visualisation and progressive muscle relaxation.
Over the years, I have seen truly wonderful breakthroughs for my clients in various stages of menopause, thanks to the power of conscious breathing. These have included a reduction in the frequency and intensity of hot flushes, and the levelling of mood changes and reduction in irritability. All symptoms all too familiar to many midlife women.
So how can my breathing techniques help you with your menopause symptoms? Let’s look at some of the most common ones, and how breathwork can improve your wellbeing. As for the lockdown insomnia, I hope that will be eased too.
Sleep, low energy, brain fog and weight gain
Sleep is vitally important not only for physical and emotional wellbeing but also for maintaining healthy cognitive abilities. Poor sleep, something many of us have experienced over the last 12 months of lockdown insomnia, can also influence appetite regulation and result in weight gain. Sleeping issues can also lead to low energy, feeling of physical fatigue and brain fog.
If you are waking up in the night due to hot flushes or experience broken ‘lockdown insomnia’ sleep, try this conscious breathing and visualisation exercise to fall asleep.
- Start by taking a moment to mentally scan through your body and notice any pockets of tension. As best as you can, relax these areas by gentle stretches
- Breathing in through the nose, inhale to the count of four
- Breathing out through the nose or mouth as comfortable, exhale to the count of six
Allow your inhale and exhale to flow naturally – no need to force your breath
- Place one or both hands on your belly
- Imagine that a warm and glowing ball is expanding under your hand as you inhale and getting smaller as you exhale
- Continue to gently rest your attention on your breathing and visualisation as long as needed
Tip: If you find combining counting the breath and visualisation too much, please select the one that you are comfortable with and continue your exercise.
Try the following two-minute exercise as you notice a hot flush is approaching.
- Start by finding a comfortable position (seated or lying down)
- Close your eyes or drop your gaze
- Place one or both hands on your belly
- Breathe in through the nose to the count of five, noticing the gentle rise and expansion of your belly
- Breathe out through the mouth to the count of five, noticing the belly return to neutral
- As best as you can, allow your thoughts and emotions come and go as if you are watching them as clouds crossing your mind’s sky
- Continue for two minutes or as needed.
Anxiety, Mood Fluctuations and Anger
Try this three-minute exercise as often as you can during the day. It will help to manage stress, anxiety and other psychological symptoms before they escalate into “flare-up” moments.
- Start by finding a comfortable seated position with your feet on the ground
- Breathing in through the nose, take slow and deep inhales
- Breathing out through the mouth, let go with relaxed exhales
- As you continue to breathe in this way, mentally scan your body and notice any pockets of tension. As best as you can, relax these areas by repeating the following steps between two to four rounds each, as you feel comfortable:
- Roll your head in a gentle and smooth circular motion in both directions
- Roll your shoulders in a gentle and easy circular motion backwards and forwards
- Close your hands into a fist counting to three and release with a relaxed sigh
- Gently stretch your body
- Continue for three minutes or as needed
- Allow your breathing return to its natural rhythm and pace