The power of your breath is amazing. Have you ever thought about it? It is the only physiological function we can do unconsciously and unconsciously! We can control it, or let it happen all on its own.
And if you know how to use it right, it can alter your reactions, change your frame of mind and adjust the state of your body.
These days we don't take enough deep breaths. Really deep, like breathing to the bottom of your lungs deep. When was the last time you did that?
Some benefits of breathing deep:
- Calms your mind
- Reduces anxiety
- Slows heart rate
- Stabilises blood pressure
One tip to help you breath deeper is to extend the length of time you exhale for. The longer your exhale, the bigger your inhale. When you exhale really try and empty all of the air from your lungs, as if it's coming right from the bottom of your stomach.
The breathing techniques I have learnt recently have really helped to ground and calm myself in times of stress or when feeling anxious.
The first one I learnt about was the 4-7-8 breath (by Dr Andrew Weil)
To begin, take one full breath in and out.
Rest your tongue on your gum behind your upper front teeth.
Next, inhale through your nose for the count of four.
Hold your breath for the count of seven.
Forcefully blow the air out through your mouth for the count of eight.
Repeat this cycle four times.
Now - how do you feel?
Lighter? More calm? Have a clearer mind?
This breathing sequence helps reset you by calming your mind and relaxing your muscles. Your attention is drawn away from distractions and focuses on your breath, and you flood your body with oxygen, inducing a calm state.
To feel the most benefits Dr Weil recommends this is to be practiced twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. Regular practice will also help you to fall asleep easily and quickly.
However any time where you take a moment to focus on your breath will help you. This is essentially what meditation is, the practice of focusing on your breath and your breathing.
Just the exercise of sitting somewhere calmly, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath can help you. Notice how the air feels as you breathe it in, and out. What is the quality of the air like? How does your body move with your breaths? Can you feel your chest lift and expand on an exhale? And fall and contract on your exhale? Spend a minute just feeling your breath.
The more often you practice the more it will help you. It will become easier to reset yourself in times of stress. It is also effective when dealing with cravings and emotions like anger. It centres you and helps you to take a step back from whatever situation you are in.
how do you respond?
"Fight or flight" mode helps us to survive. Unnecessary processes in the body are suppressed when this is triggered. Your immune system is one of them. So every time you feel stressed your immune system is not running at it's best, meaning you are more susceptible to catching infections and developing illness.
Unfortunately today there are lots of everyday things that provoke a stress response in us (but are not life or death situations) from traffic jams to money worries. We can't control every situation, but we do have the power to control how we react to them, and having some breathing exercises up your sleeve is useful to help us stay clear and calm.
Next time you are feeling overwhelmed you can use the technique of the 4-7-8 breath (or even just one minute focusing on the sensations of your breathing) and see how it helps you!