Why do we sigh? I’ve never given the sigh much thought, but apparently we all do it – even babies and cats and dogs. Sometimes I feel a deep sigh as I settle down into a particularly relaxing yoga posture.

Other times it’s a response to sadness, depression or despair. But I’ve been reading about it recently, and scientists say it is also a life-sustaining reflex that helps preserve lung function.

Sighs seem to work like the brain’s reboot button for regular breathing. According to a 2010 study by researchers in Belgium ‘Take a deep breath: The relief effect of spontaneous and instructed sighs’, when we are busy or stressed,  our breathing can became more and more irregular.

The body then uses the sigh to reset the breathing pattern, which helps restore more regular breathing. Furthermore, muscle tension steadily built up before a spontaneous sigh and decreased afterward, supporting the idea that sighing helps release tension.

No doubt we’ll all feel a bit tense at times in this frantic build up to Christmas, so hopefully you can find some time to not only sigh a little, but practise some yoga too.  Simple breathing exercises (yoga pranayama) can be so helpful in enabling us to switch off and release the tension in tight muscles.