Breathing IS Stress Relief
“For breath is life, if you breathe well, you will live long” Sanskrit Proverb
Recently I had the privilege of helping to create a wonderful workshop on natural ways to relieve stress. It’s called “Stress Busters©” and can be found by clicking on the big purple button at www.kentcookinstitute.com. One of the first exercises taught to allay tension in the moment, is breathing. I can remember back in the day when I was teaching fitness, I used to have to remind the students to breathe. Pausing to breathe is one of the first things we teach our students and members at The Nook. Simply inhale and exhale with deep, gentle, slow breaths (3 times) to reset the brain and give you a few moments of peace. How often do you find that life is so busy you may describe it by saying, ‘I don’t have time to breathe,’ or, in a tense situation you utter the words, ‘Just give me room to breathe!’ How much a metaphor are these words? They may mean that you literally need time and space - time to catch up with yourself, space to regroup, to process whatever you’re going through. It may even mean you actually need to breathe!
Breathing is an autonomic function that is a part of the natural rhythm of the body. We do not have to think about inhaling or exhaling, unless we have the hiccups, our head is under water, or, we have a dis-ease such as asthma or emphysema. When we are under stress or very tired, our breathing changes; it becomes shallow, leaving the body with the need for more air. A yawn can be a reminder message to breathe deeper. When you focus on taking a deep breath you are activating one of the body’s quickest and easiest relaxation responses. Concentrating on a slow and deep breath signals the mind that all is well and it is safe to be calm. As you focus your breath bringing it to a more normal place, the brain receives more oxygen, your heart rate slows, your muscles lose their tension and begin to relax; so you see, one should pay attention to their breathing.
Would you believe breathing helps you to fashion your world? When your breathing is composed, you possess the ability to face whatever challenge is before you with a clear head, patience and compassion. A well placed, slow inhalation will give you the time you need to develop a ‘healthy, in-the-moment’ perspective.
Inhale, exhale! Just two little steps to less stress! You realize of course, that as you concentrate on your breath, you have put a temporary hold on the constant thinking, the long-playing tape in your head? Hence, the blessed relief! Another technique I learned at a workshop was called, 7- 7- 4. Exhale to a count of 7, inhale to another count of 7 and then hold your breath for a count of 4. Repeat. As you are holding your breath, take a moment to notice what your body is doing. By holding your breath, you are charging your battery. Your body may begin to tingle; your head may feel a bit of a buzz. You can plug into this instant energizer/relaxer at any time, anywhere you like.
There are a few other details you might wish to commit to memory to enhance your breathing:
· Keep your back as straight as possible without tension; a comfortable chair, or, standing with your feet hip width apart, will help you accomplish this
· Gently place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth
· Exhale through your mouth, you may even make a whooshing sound
· Inhale quietly through your nose, this signals the body that it is okay to feel calm
· As you hold your breath, you may want to close your eyes; this turns your focus inward
· Repeat several times or until you actually feel you have escaped the jungle-scream moment
When you become one of the actors in a stressful situation, you can take the lead role by becoming the one who takes a moment to breathe. Just breathe. It does not cost a thing, and it works wonders. Not just for you, but for those around you. When all is said and done, the gifts that will develop as a result of you knowing it is time to put on the brakes and take a time out for a healthy breath will be so numerous; you will not have time to count them. Do not try. Just enjoy the benefits. When you exude calm, those around you will absorb it. Everything will slow down.
Welcome to the world of breathing!