Breathing is a constant in all of our lives, and it is essential to our survival. We can go weeks without food and days without water, but only a few minutes without air. Because our breathing is automatic, we generally don’t even think about it. However, we can choose to control our breathing with purpose and intention.
Consider how anger or anxiety results in shallow breaths, a racing heart and the inability to think clearly. Shallow breathing fills only the top part of the lungs, and tends to further lock in tension and stress. Conversely, intentionally slowing and deepening the breath all the way into the belly slows down the heart rate, allows oxygen to nourish all parts of the body, and helps restore mental and emotional balance.
Try the following simple breathing exercises to calm and quiet your mind. Whether you perform these exercises for a few seconds or a few minutes, they can help you put aside the stresses of everyday life, relax and improve your mood.
Exercise 1: Follow your breath
This is a simple and powerful way to relax and harmonize body, mind and spirit.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed and your back straight. Loosen any tight clothing.
- Focus your attention on your breathing without trying to influence it in any way.
- Follow the contours of the breath cycle from inhalation to exhalation, and see if you can perceive the points at which one phase changes into the other.
- Do this for a least a few minutes.
Exercise 2: Begin with exhalation
Although breathing is an endless cycle with no beginning and no end, we tend to imagine that each breath begins when we inhale and ends when we exhale. This exercise simply asks you to reverse your perception of your breath — to think of exhaling as the first part of the cycle.
- Sit or lie with your spine straight. Close your eyes and focus your attention on the breath.
- Let your breath come and go on its own without trying to change it.
- Consciously experience your exhalation as the beginning of each new cycle.
Exercise 3: Squeeze out more air
A helpful way to deepen respiration is to exhale more air, not inhale more air. If you push more air out of your lungs, your lungs will automatically take more in and drop the air towards the abdomen.
- Take a deep breath, letting all the air out effortlessly.
- At the end of your breath cycle, try squeezing out more air. To do this, you'll use your intercostal muscles (found between your ribs), so you’ll feel the difference as these muscles compress your rib cage.
- Try to make your exhalation last as long as or slightly longer than your inhalation.
Exercise 4: Let nature breathe into you
This is a fun, imaginative form of breath work that can help you relax.
- Close your eyes, letting your arms rest alongside your body, and focus your attention on your breath without trying to influence it.
- Imagine that with each inhalation, nature is blowing breath into you, and with each exhalation, it is withdrawing breath from you.
- Picture yourself as the passive recipient of your breath. As nature breathes into you, let yourself feel the breath penetrating every part of your body, even your fingers and toes.
- Try to hold onto this image in your mind through ten breath cycles.
Posted: 5/06/2016 by
Filed under: healthy adults, healthy lifestyle, wellness awareness