Breathing is something we all do from birth, yet perhaps surprisingly it is something we don’t necessarily do well.
When we are in an unresourceful state, anxious or afraid for example, we tend to take short breaths high up in the chest.
When we experience a full blown panic attack we may not find it easy to breathe at all!
Here are a few ways to practise better breathing to encourage you to use the whole of your lungs and breathe more slowly.
Deep breathing itself is a simple yet powerful relaxation technique.
It is easy to learn, can be practised almost anywhere, and provides a quick way to manage stress levels.
Deep breathing is the cornerstone of many other relaxation practices, and is the basis for most forms of meditation. In fact breathing alone can constitute a meditation.
All you really need is a few minutes and a quiet place to relax.
The key to relaxing breathing is to breathe deeply down into the abdomen, taking in as much air as is comfortably possible, without straining. When you take deep breaths filling the abdomen rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest you inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you get, the less tense, short of breath and anxious you feel.
Make yourself comfortable in whatever position suits you best. Lotus position is great if you can do it, sitting upright in a chair is equally good. If you have the time and the space you might like to stretch out lying on your back. Whatever the position always maintain an ‘open’ posture with no restriction to breathing.
Put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
Breathe in through your nose focusing on your abdomen. The hand on your abdomen should rise while the hand on your chest should move very little.
Exhale through your mouth, comfortably pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your abdomen should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little. Do not strain, each breath should be easy and comfortable.
Continue breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Inhale and exhale to a slow rhythmic count of four. In … two … three … four. Out … two … three … four.
NB If you find it difficult breathing from your abdomen while sitting up, do try lying on the floor. Put a small book on your stomach, and try to breathe so that the book rises as you inhale and falls as you exhale. You may find bending your knees takes some strain off your back.
Filling the Jug.
This is a neat little visualisation I like to use to focus on breathing well.
As you breathe in imagine you are filling a jug or a glass with water under the tap.
The jug fills from the bottom to the top. As you breathe in see this image in your mind and make sure you fill your lungs with air all the way up from the bottom to the top. Breathe all the way down into the abdomen then up through the chest.
When you empty the jug the water spills out from the top first all the way down to the bottom. Imagine this as you breathe out and empty your lungs from the top all the way down to the bottom. Chest first all the way down to the abdomen.
Relaxation using breathing exercises, relaxation exercises, meditation and self hypnosis can be especially beneficial for hypertension and improved general health.