Life is what happens between an intake and exhale of a breath. There is nothing more important in the world for you at this time than to breathe. It is important that you are aware of how you breathe, because it has an impact on your quality of life.
Just because you breathe all the time does not mean you do it the right way. Learning to breathe has incredible benefits in your life. Keep in mind that human beings breathe approximately 18 times per minute. How you breathe affects your whole body and your mind, so consciously controlling how you do It is key to your well-being. In yoga this is known as pranayama. The air in this discipline, is vital energy.
In order to combat stress, we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. The relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress (e.g., decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, and muscle tension).
How to activate the natural relaxation response? According to the American Institute of Stress, the answer’s easy. Focused abdominal breathing. Abdominal breathing (or belly breathing, as we mentioned before) increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the nervous system, causing a state of calmness. The point of focused breathing is to feel connected to your body, and be present and aware of the feeling of your worries drifting farther and farther away.
20 to 30 minutes of focused breathing each day can work wonders in reducing stress and anxiety.
The AIS endorses several breathing techniques, including one called the Quieting Response, a quick, six-second exercise that utilizes visualization and deep breathing to stop stress in its tracks.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Smile inwardly with your eyes and mouth and release the tension in your shoulders. This is a powerful muscle release in the places where most people hold their muscles tense.
2. Imagine holes in the soles of your feet. As you take a deep breath in, visualize hot air flowing through these holes moving slowly up your legs, through your abdomen and filling your lungs.
3. Relax your muscles sequentially as the hot air moves through them up your body.
4. When you exhale reverse the visualization so you “see” hot air coming out the same holes in your feet. Repeat throughout the day whenever you need to feel calm and relaxed.
Many professionals in many different fields, including doctors and therapists, believe strongly in the benefits of deep, mindful breathing. While these techniques might have different effects on different people, you can never go wrong when you take a moment to calm the mind, and take a breath.
Today, take a moment to pause and breathe for your own health.