Do you believe you know how to take a deep breath?
Before you read any further I want you to stop and check how you are breathing. Place your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your abdomen. Now breathe in as you normally do.
If the right hand goes higher than the left hand – you are breathing from your chest.
If the left hand goes higher than the right hand- you are breathing from your abdomen.
My guess is that most everyone reading this post will be a breathing from their chest. Sadly, the stress and expectations of everyday have forced us to change our breathing habits and as a result our breathing is shallow and often we may even find ourselves holding our breath.
When we are under stress the sympathetic nervous system automatically kicks in and our breathing changes, heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up and muscles become tense. This involuntary act is only meant to be for a short while but prolonged stress and anxiety has made it that for many individuals this becomes the norm.
Many of us do not realize we are not taking a deep breath.
Did you know that breathing is the only bodily function that we can do voluntarily and involuntarily? It is possible to teach yourself to breath differently and to become aware of your breath during difficult time.
Today I am going to share a few exercises with you which have been beneficial to me. If these techniques are not helping you as much as you would like, I encourage you to search the internet for a technique you are comfortable with and brings you the most benefit. You may also want to consult with a yoga studio or other health care practitioner.
Abdominal Breathing Technique
(my acupuncturist shared this with me and calls it 6-7-8 breathing)
- Again place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your abdomen. Take a deep breath so that your abdomen is raising higher than your chest. This ensures you that you are fully expanding your lungs.
- After exhaling through your mouth, take a deep breath in through your nose (imagining that you are drawing in all of the air in the room) for a count of 6. Hold this breath for a count of 7 or as long as you can (not exceeding the count of 7)
- Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. As you exhale, feel relaxation and contract your stomach so that you are exhaling all of the breath. It is important to remember that we deepen respirations by completely exhaling. (Remember when you find yourself holding your breath, you are not exhaling). You may want to practice slowly exhaling as many individuals have a tendency to quickly exhale.
- Repeat this cycle for more times for a total of 5 deep breaths. Aim for a rate of one breath every 10 seconds (or 6 breaths per minute).
This technique is great for preparing to go to sleep, when you are feeling overwhelmed or simply are needing to slow down.
I have heard several variations of this breathing and the belief for most is that this technique helps to equalize and balance the body.
As mentioned earlier, there are various techniques which work better for some than others and you can find a few here.
Slow yourself down today and take a deep breath.
- For a count of 4, slowly breath in through your nose
- Hold this breath for a count of 4
- Slowly exhale for a count of 4 through your nose
In a recent Women’s Health article, I read that Navy Seals are taught this type of breathing and are encouraged to do it for four minutes. I typically do not time myself but wait until I am feeling more relaxed.
Self Care Saturday is a weekly series providing tips and suggestions for daily self care.