11 Jul

Do you know how to breathe?

blog_breathingAre you aware that everyday, all day, you are BREATHING?! Life is stressful, and learning how to tune into your breath can help de-stress, improve your energy level, mood and sleeping patterns! Taking the time each day to simply stop for a moment and listen to your breath… observe where it is, and how you feel, can help you hit the internal reset button, and maybe even give you a fresh perspective. Try it! You might be surprised…

A friend of mine shared these breathing techniques with me, and I am sharing them with you below. If you are ever feeling inspired to try, give them a whirl:

Belly Breathing

What is belly breathing? Breathing deeply, bringing air down to the lower portion of the lungs where oxygen exchange is most efficient, is a powerful anti-stress technique. Unfortunately, few of us do this naturally. Did you know that babies breathe from the belly without even thinking about it at all? Most adults in this world are shallow “chest breathers” who walk around in a state of subtle but chronic oxygen deprivation. It’s no wonder so many of us complain about having no energy!

It maybe seem strange to have to learn to breathe like a baby again, in a much more conscious way, but many of us have to train ourselves to breathe slowly and deeply from the belly rather than the chest. As you notice the difference you feel after heightening this kind of awareness, it’s well worth the time it takes in practicing and getting there.

** Technique to try:
Start by lying on your back with your arms out at approximately a 45 degree angle from your body. Simply observe your breath for about a minute or two. Notice whether it is slow or fast, shallow or deep, regular or irregular.

Rub your hands together until they are warm and then place them on your belly with the center of your lower hand touching your naval. Continue to breathe naturally with your hands resting gently on your belly. Don’t try to force air into your belly, but just observe whether your belly expands as you inhale and retracts as you exhale.

Once you’ve done this exercise a few times, you’ll be able to recognize when you’re breathing from the chest and learn to switch easily to belly breathing while sitting or standing, even while going about your busy day! Doing a few minutes of deep, slow belly breathing when you feel stressed is a simple and very effective way to ease tension throughout your whole body!

The relaxation response:

Encountering a stresstor can literally take your breath away. For example, let’s say you’re driving down the road without a care in the world, and then suddenly another driver starts tailgating you, or cuts you off! Stress hormones kick in and your breathing changes… this affects your whole body, going from slow and deep to rapid and shallow. Your body prepares for action and your breath quickens with anticipation.

An easy way to interrupt the stress response (and one that you can practice anytime, anywhere), is to consciously slow your breathing down. Inhale slowly, hold the breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly. Try it: Inhale: 2…3…4… hold 2…3…4… Exhale: 2…3…4… Repeat this three or four times.

Once your breath normalizes, your body will follow. It may not “hear” you right away, but if you continue to breathe slowly and deeply, your brain and body will get the message and calm down. Instead of churning out more stress chemicals and setting yourself up for chronic stress, your body will learn a much healthier relaxation response. Your heart rate will slow and your blood pressure will drop!

For many people, combining slow, deep breathing with the mental repetition of a word (or mantra), is easier than focusing on the breath itself. Choose a word that you find soothing and mentally repeat it with each inhalation and exhalation. The silent repetition of this word will help pull your attention away from the alarm bells going off in your head and/or body. You pass from the hyper alertness phase of stress into an alert and keen focus on the breath and finally, a state of relaxation and peacefulness!

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