If you don’t know already breathing exercises are a great way to relax the mind and the body and even help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
For the vast majority of us that are lucky enough not to have any form of respiratory illness we tend not think or question our breathing. We all breathe thousands of times a day, breathing keeps us alive. However, poor breathing habits can have such a detrimental effect on us and actually contribute to anxiety, panic attacks, muscle tension, headaches and even depression.
We breathe in two key ways, shallow breaths are chest or thoracic breathing or deep breaths which are abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing.
Chest breathing is commonly linked to our modern sedentary lifestyles that are all too often full of stress & anxiety. Shallow breathing can be irregular or rapid. Breathing like this can be recognised as it causes the chest to expand and the shoulders to go up. Shallow breathing can be linked to tension, poor posture, chronic stress, fatigue, depression, painful feelings such as backache and headaches.
The kind of breathing that we’re going to focus on here is deep, abdominal breathing from the diaphragm. This is the natural breathing pattern observed in newborn babies and sleeping adults.
There are lots of different breathing exercises that over time I’ll share here in this journal. When practiced and incorporated into our daily routine they help to manage stress and improve general health and wellbeing.
This first breathing exercise is aimed at encouraging the practice of becoming aware of your own breathing pattern and practicing abdominal breathing. This is a simple deep breathing exercise that relaxes the body and mind at the same time. My suggestion is that you pick a time of day that works best for you when you’re able to take 5-10 minutes for yourself. Yep, just a few minutes at a time when you’re not going to be disturbed. Diary it into your schedule so you don’t miss it or end up doing something else instead. By incorporating a relaxing breathing exercise into your daily routine and making time just for yourself you’ll start to notice the benefits immediately. This is a great habit to get into.
Find somewhere to sit so you’re comfortable and ready to relax but not fall asleep.
Once your sat comfortably with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting on your lap close your eyes. By closing your eyes it helps to focus more on your breathing.
Breathe as you would do normally.
Think about which part of your lungs you’re breathing with?
Recognise, where the breathe is going.
If you’re breathing with your chest you will notice the rise and fall of the chest and shoulders. If you’re breathing into your chest you wont be using the whole of your breathing capacity. You’ll quickly be able to tell as chest breathing is very shallow and short. To help direct the breath gently place your hand on your diaphragm and feel your diaphragm move to accommodate the breathe. Take a slow controlled breath in through the nose. Follow the breath down, feel your hand move as your diaphragm expands in order to accommodate the breath. Don’t force out the breath just allow it to release out through the mouth fully.
Take another abdominal breathe in the same way as before.
Allow your mind to become completely consumed in your breathing. Notice any feelings or sensations as air is inhaled in through the nostrils to the nasal cavity. Recognise, the temperature and movement as the air as it enters in. Feeling the air go into your lungs. Without force allow the out breathe to release from your mouth. Notice any feeling and sensation of the breath as it leaves your body via your mouth. Do this with an open mind be in discovery mode. Don’t try and fix anything. If your diaphragm feels a little tight just accept it & continue to to do this exercise for a few minutes. You will feel so relaxed. This type of breathing will become more and more comfortable & you’ll eventually with a little practice find this feels natural and easy. After all this is how we’re meant to breathe. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll benefit from regular deep calm breathes.