Breathe

Right now you’re probably thinking “Check - I’m breathing…step 2”.  Wait just a minute – you’re definitely breathing, but are you breathing right?  If you pay attention, you’ll find that your breathing changes almost constantly throughout the day.  Breathing is automatic, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the way it should be.  Allow yourself to observe your breathing at different times and notice the pace, the pattern, the depth and ease of your breath. 

How does your breathing differ when you’re tense, anxious, nervous or stressed compared to when you’re relaxed, calm, sleepy, or happy?  

For most people, as they become more anxious, breathing becomes more shallow, more rapid, and more restricted.  You may even catch yourself holding your breath altogether.  You’ll probably notice that the length of time allotted for exhaling shortens as you become more tense.  Try to observe this the next time you’re in a stressful situation – at your doctor’s office, in a meeting with your boss, during an argument or disagreement, or when you’re in an unfamiliar environment or uncomfortable social gathering.

Once you’ve noticed how your breathing changes in more stressful or uncomfortable situations, you can begin to feel how consciously changing your breathing affects how you feel.  

First, sit up straight and relax your belly so your diaphragm can function normally and effortlessly.  Inhale slowly until your lungs are nearly fully expanded.  Pause until you feel the urge to begin exhaling.  Let the air out slowly through your nose in a comfortable, even flow.  Concentrate on slowing the exhalation phase until it’s about twice as long as inhalation.  Once the air is nearly fully expelled pause for a few seconds, until you feel the urge to breathe again, and then repeat the process.

You’ll notice a cycle of tension and relief that occurs throughout the breathing cycle. As you breathe in it feels good…until your lungs have nearly reached their capacity, and as you pause at the top of the breath you will begin to feel tension – the desire to exhale.   As you let the air out, you’ll notice a feeling of relief, of pleasure, the feeling of calmness and relaxation.  Once the air has been completely exhaled, and you pause at the bottom of the breath, that feeling of calm relief slowly turns into a feeling of tension as you sense the need for more air and begin the cycle over, again.

This cycle of pleasure and tension repeats itself over and over again, subconsciously over ten thousand times a day.  

By focusing on your breathing and retraining yourself to breathe more slowly and fully, you will send a message to your immune system that it, too, should relax and be calm.  

[Try the Breathing Coach that will guide you through the cadence of breathing you choose. With practice, you will be able to calm your breathing to 2 breaths per minute or even less.]

STEP 2 >

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