Calming your mind and body
People have been using the breath to influence their physical and emotional state for 8,000 years. Only recently has science begun to unravel how the breath affects the body and the mind. Research has shown that regular breath work can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression by calming our sympathetic nervous system in a variety of ways that also affect the brain, the heart, and the digestive system in a positive way.
When we become anxious, worried, or hurried, one of the first things that often happens is that our breathing becomes shallow and constricted. Constricted breathing leads to fatigue and discomfort, which reduces our ability to cope with the challenges of life. It is helpful to try to relax as soon as we become aware of tension or anxiety. There are few times when we cannot do relaxation breathing; it is a powerful tool that is always available to us.
To practice relaxation breathing:
Sit in a comfortable position with your hand resting on your belly.
Slowly breathe in for a count of six
Relax your belly, and let it move out as you slowly breathe in.
This allows the diaphragm, the sheet of muscle between the chest and abdomen, to lower and make room for the lungs to expand fully.
Pause, and slowly breathe out for a count of six.
Pause again, and repeat the slow breaths in and out for six to ten breaths.
If you are tired, return to normal breathing. If you still feel tense, repeat as needed. This slow, deep breathing will calm your sympathetic nervous system, allow you to go through your day in a calmer way with more energy, and help you to sleep better. You can also do this breathing if you are wakeful at night.