Breathing 101: Reduce Stress Through the Art of Breathing
Breathing is the simplest and most direct way to affix your mind with your body. It is also one of the few involuntary functions that involve intentional influence. Meaning, you can deliberately change the way you breathe to promote relaxation, improve your moods and help you feel energized.
It may take some practice and focus to perfect your breath work exercises to achieve positive results. But the long-term effects are well worth the effort—having a mindful awareness, calm and inner peace and relaxed body and mind.
One way to promote deeper breathing and better health is exhaling fully. When you breathe intensely on your inhale, more oxygen enters the bloodstream where it circulates in the brain and all organs of the body. Exhaling out completely expels more carbon dioxide, which is a body waste. When you don’t exhale fully, CO2 remains in the body and accumulates in the cells producing fatigue, mental clarity reduction and increased stress.
Consciously inhaling deeply combined with exhaling fully deactivates the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system which switches off the body’s stress response. Simultaneously, the parasympathetic division is engaged which triggers the relaxation response. As a result, all bodily functions gravitate towards a state of relaxation.
Too much attention to stressful situations may cause anxiety, pain and sadness. Those who are constantly stressed may be chronically under-breathing. Breathing becomes shallow, rapid and for some holding their breath unconsciously. So get in the habit of shifting your awareness to your breath whenever you are upset or stressed.
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Intentional Breathing Practice
Intentional breathing involves tuning in on your inhale and exhale. Here’s what you should do:
- As you breathe, place the front of your tongue on the roof of your mouth slightly behind your top front teeth.
- Breathe through your nose, but it’s okay to breathe through your mouth, too.
- Take slower, deeper and quieter breaths.
- Exhale completely. Squeeze out as much air as you can before inhaling again.
- Breathe abdominally-—breathing in through the stomach rather than the chest to bring more oxygen into the body.
The 4-7-8 Technique
This is a specific technique for those who need more structure in their breath work practice.
- Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, taking in more oxygen.
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds. Holding your breath briefly lets the oxygen spread throughout your bloodstream.
- Exhale completely through your mouth for 8 seconds.
Now inhale again and repeat the process.
Breathing can be done consciously and unconsciously. Being aware of how you breathe can enhance your cognitive, emotional, physical, and spiritual balance.
Source: Psychology Today