In stressful moments, your thoughts may be drawn to past regrets and worries about the future. Fortunately, you have an easily accessible and free tool that can help you cope with stress – your breath.
Breathing exercises are a great way to get in touch with your mind, body and mind. Deep, conscious breathing (yoga breathing) can serve as an anchor to stay in the present moment. Your conscious breath can also be used to feel the energy of your emotions, especially the uncomfortable ones you might want to escape.
In stressful moments, conscious breathing allows you to move and release negative energy rather than storing it in your body. This is important because stored energy often expresses in muscle tension and other physical ailments.
Breathing work also has other benefits. It can increase alertness and oxygen flow, and allow your body to release toxins more easily. Although breathing is something your body naturally does, it is also an ability that can be sharpened.
The two basic types of breathing are:
- Breast breathing, the secondary muscles in your body uses upper chest. Breast Breathing is designed for use in high stress situations such as sprinting or racing. In stressful situations, you may inadvertently resort to chest breathing. This can lead to tense shoulder and neck muscles and sometimes even headaches. Chronic stress can increase these symptoms.
- Diaphragmatic breathing, which originates from the dominant respiratory muscle of the body – the diaphragm. This type of breathing is more effective and efficient. It can lead to feelings of relaxation instead of tension.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to relieve stress. To get started, try the exercise below alone or with a partner:
- Get a comfortable position. Close your eyes and focus your attention on your body and your breath.
- Inhale deeply through the nose to allow your abdomen to fill with air, and gently stretch out. Exhale by relaxing and releasing all the air through your nose.
- Place one hand on your stomach, just below your navel, and the other on your upper chest. Take a deep breath through your nose and through your nose. Feel the coolness of the air at the entrance and the heat when it flows out.
- When you inhale and exhale through the nose, focus on moving your breath so that you can feel the rise and fall of your breath in your breath more than in the abdomen. In other words, move the hand resting on your stomach more than the hand on the chest. Inhale deeply through the nose and push it through the back of your neck to your stomach. Slowly let your stomach escape as you exhale through your nose.
- Take three slow, deep breaths with a conscious focus on raising and lowering your abdomen. Continue to inhale deeply and deeply, allowing the body to breathe and trust it as the breath slows and becomes more relaxed.
The benefits of deep breathing go beyond the momentary relaxation. Many studies have shown that deep, yogic breathing helps to balance the autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary bodily functions such as temperature control and bladder function. This can help alleviate the symptoms of stress-related disorders and mental illnesses such as anxiety, stress, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Finally, this passage by Donna Farhi of The Breathing Book, Health and Vitality through Essential Breathing is designed to help you understand the meaning of your own breath: "Breathing is one of the simplest things in the world, we breathe in, we breathe out, if we breathe with real freedom, then we are, do not touch the breath and do not hold it … the process of breathing is the most accurate metaphor we use for the way we personally approach life, how we live our lives, and how we respond to the inevitable changes that life brings us. "
Release date: 2016-12-29