Today, I will consciously inhale, exhale, relax and immerse myself in peace.
— Yogananda, author of Inner Peace
Do you often wish you had a magic trick to find calm and peace amidst the chaos and stress of your busy life? I have a secret . . . breathing is a powerful antidote to stress. The secret is how you breathe. Of course, you breathe everyday, without even thinking about it, but if you’re like most people, your breathing is most likely a little fast and shallow. Deep breathing, on the other hand, produces the relaxation response in your body.
In the early 1980’s, Herbert Benson, MD, a Harvard trained physician, discovered that meditation and relaxation triggered the parasympathetic nervous system, and reversed the symptoms of the stress response, which is activated by the sympathetic nervous system and increases heart rate, respiration, and a host of other symptoms that lead to stress in the body and disease if it becomes chronic.
Unlike the sympathetic nervous system, which turns on the stress response, your parasympathetic nervous system is the switch that turns off the stress response. Learning how to breathe properly and how to use your breath is the quickest, most effective tool you can learn to calm yourself down, be more focused, and feel more energized.
Breathing – it’s the first thing you do when you arrive in this world; and the last thing you do before you leave – some people believe it is the Holy Spirit coming unto you at birth and departing at death. In Hinduism, it is called Prana, which means cosmic energy.
Even if you don’t view breathing as a spiritual endowment, it is unquestionable that your breath is essential to your health and well-being. Without your breath, you would die within minutes – and yet, like most people, you probably don’t give it much thought or attention, unless you have a breathing problem. Today, I invite you to become more aware of your breath; to become more intimate with it; to relate to it like a dear friend who’s always there for you, lifting you up, calming you down, and energizing you. You can learn to use your breath to give you all these results.
I invite you to practice regulating your breath. In this way, you can use your breath as an antidote to stress. By now, we’ve all heard that deep breathing is good and produces relaxation. It’s true. It’s actually the most effective stress management tool you have (not to mention, the most accessible and least expensive).
While your thoughts and perceptions cause the stress response to kick in; breathing is the antidote. By simply slowing and deepening your breath for a few seconds or minutes, the relaxation response is activated and begins to reverse the stress response. You can literally stop your stress and become calm and relaxed in minutes simply by managing your breath more consciously.
Not only does conscious breathing reduce stress and bring you peace, but here is a list of other health benefits:
- Purifies and oxygenates your blood
- Removes waste products and poisons
- Improves your circulation
- Increases energy
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Increases mental clarity and concentration
- Improves creative, intellectual and intuitive capacities
How to do it
Here are two simple breathing exercises. Choose one and give it a try. You will feel more relaxed and more energized as a result:
1. 3-Minute Breath-a-lizer
- Sit or lie comfortably
- Notice your breath in your nostrils as you inhale
- Notice your breath in your nostrils as you exhale
- Repeat three times
- Notice if your breath is slow or fast; and if it’s a little fast, slow it down, without forcing it – just allow it to become slower.
- Notice if your breath is shallow or deep; and if it’s a little shallow, then deepen your breath, gently, without forcing, just allowing your breath to become deeper.
2. Abdominal Breathing:
- Sit or lie
- Breathe in slowly through your nose as you expand your abdomen.
- Imagine you have a balloon inside that you are slowly inflating with each inhalation.
- Breathe out slowly as you pull your abdominal muscles in, without straining, so that you press all air out of your lungs.
- Repeat three times, or until you establish a natural rhythm.
As you go about your day, stop every few hours and put your hand on your stomach to see if it is expanding. This will let you know that you are breathing deeply. If your stomach doesn’t expand, then you know you need to simply allow your breath to deepen and slow down. It takes awareness and practice, but you can count on feeling less stressed and more calm by becoming more aware of your breathing and using breathing exercises to retrain your body and mind to stay calm and centered.
I invite you to come over to my Facebook page and let me know who you’re doing with your deep breathing exercises. Let me know if they are helping, and how you’re doing them. Your comments can help others by encouraging them to get started on a more conscious breathing regime.
Have a blessed and peaceful week.
To Your Well-Being,