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Sunday
May112008

The Simple Art of Anti-Stress Breathing

1575638124_a7043f693a_m.jpgYour stress levels affect your breathing, but by changing your breathing you can flip things around and affect your stress levels - here’s how…

For many of us modern life equals chronic stress. We live with stress daily, we accept it as normal and when we talk to each other of our pressures and concerns we say: “tell me about it!” In other words, I have my worries and you have yours and such is life. But over time, chronic stress eats away at us from the inside, it makes our muscles rigid and tense, it weakens our digestive system, and impairs our immune response.

 

When Stress Feels Normal

When stress feels normal we forget how to relax and we forget how to breathe. We get used to muscle pain and tension. We may develop mystery abdominal pains as we upset the balancing energies of our bodies, our sleep becomes disturbed and we find it hard to sit still and take life in.

One easy way to start to unravel tension and lower your stress levels is to learn to tune in to how you breathe and start making some gentle adjustments.

 

Getting to Know Your Breath

Breathing is an automatic act, your body takes care of it for you, but if you learn a few simple ways to work with your breath you can use it to great personal benefit.

To change your breath so that you can use it to dissolve stress and tension, it’s useful to first notice how you breath now. By developing awareness of your breathing habits you can learn to notice when you feel tense and adjust into a more relaxed breathing pattern. With a little practice in noticing and then deepening and lengthening your breath you will soon be able to reduce stress and tension anywhere and anytime you choose.

Developing Awareness:

- Sit relaxed but upright in a comfortable chair, plant both feet firmly on the floor with your legs uncrossed, now breath normally, don’t try and change anything yet, just breath how you normally do and pay attention.

- Where are you most aware of your breath? Is it in your throat? High up in your chest? Or deep down in your stomach?

- How does your breath feel? Is it light and shallow or deep and even? Does one breath flow into the next, or is there a pause or hesitancy between your breaths?

- Now notice the speed of your breath, count the number of breaths you take in 10 seconds (inhalation and exhalation equals one whole breath) and times the number by 6 to find out how many breaths you take a minute.

 

How Awareness Can Get You Calm

Once you’ve notice your usual automatic breathing pattern you can take steps to become a naturally relaxed breather, someone who breathes deeply down into their stomach without tension in the neck or shoulders, or restriction in the diaphragm or muscles of the abdominal wall.

- Take a moment to stretch and relax your neck and shoulders, now drop your shoulders and relax your jaw by parting your teeth a little and wearing a slight smile on your lips

- Soften and relax the muscles of your stomach, and as you breath allow your stomach to expand with each breath in

- Now bring your mind fully to the present moment by pay full attention to your breath as it enters and leaves you body. When your mind is thinking ahead to other things you need to do, it causes an alertness in the body which is a preparation for action, and that state can make your breathing shallow. For now bring your mind back to the present moment and your breath and know that after relaxing like this for a few minutes you will still be able to do whatever it is you need to do, and you will do it with less stress and increased efficiency if you take these moments to breath steadily and deeply, with your neck and shoulders relaxed.

- Gradually deepen your breath as if you are breathing right down into your stomach, filling your lungs deeply from the bottom up to the top. When you exhale, be sure to do so fully and completely empty your lungs. Keep your shoulders relaxed and allow your stomach to expand as your breath in. Slow your breath gradually, let it flow gently and naturally, with no effort. Just breath and relax for 5 to 10 minutes.

Your Breath on Speed

Your breath tends to match the speed of whatever activity you’re doing. Driving, walking, and rushing about getting things done are all examples of times when your breath may become rapid and shallow without you even noticing.

Slowing down in general is a kindness to yourself and a natural anti-dote to stress.

Deep Breathing During Down Time

During slower activities like washing dishes, picking the kids up from school, or gardening your breathing may be slower but you may still be breathing shallowly or holding tension in your neck and shoulders. You could remind yourself at these times to relax and breath deeply, over time this can become a very healthy habit and you will feel the improvement in your overall sense of well-being.

Written by Ananga Sivyer. Join me on Facebook or Twitter
 

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Photo Credit: “Spirals on Blue” by Tanakawho

 

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Reader Comments (7)

When I get stressed I clench my teeth and I think I hold my breath too - your articles are helping me become aware of this and I've started practising the relaxing breath a few times a week.

thank you
sally

May 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSally

Hi, I found your page on A Carnival on Relaxation Tips. Thanks for sharing your article, I think it is certainly a great set of steps to be more relaxed from stress.

May 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMike King

I found your site at the Blog Carnival. You have a very informative blog that's very well put together. Enjoyed your post. Keep up the good work!

HomeSpun Granny

May 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHomeSpun Granny

Sally,

I used to clench my teeth due to tension too, keep up the great work with your relaxing breathing sessions and you will soon notice a growing sense of calm and relaxation.

with best regards
Ananga

May 27, 2008 | Registered CommenterAnanga

Mike and HomeSpun Granny,

Thank you so much for your kind words, it's good to meet you here.

May 27, 2008 | Registered CommenterAnanga

Great article - it's a good reminder for me. I took some breathing workshops a while ago, but had since long forgotten its importance

Lisa

May 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGreener Pastures

Breathing exercises really help me out when my allergies and asthma start acting up. I suffer form very extreme seasonal allergies and as long as I take my Flonase over the counter I am able to breath better which helps me big time.This product eradicated all my allergy symptoms fairly quickly and for the rest of the day.Which also gives me a chance to enjoy running around and playing with my 4 yr old son. I read up on asthma and allergies on "kiwi drug" should help other suffers out!

Oct 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStaci

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