When I was feeling anxious one day, my husband said to me, “Just breathe!” Well, I knew I was breathing because air was going in and out of my body. At that moment, I realized he didn’t mean it literally, he meant it figuratively. He wanted me to relax. He wasn’t trying to make me start breathing after I had stopped. He was just trying to get me to relax. Since that “ah ha!” moment, I have had several opportunities to look at and ponder the words ‘breath’ and ‘breathe.’
The act of breathing
The physical action of breathing is necessary for all animal life. As mammals, we use our lungs for this involuntary action of inhaling air with a particular level of oxygen and exhaling a particular level of carbon dioxide. We do this without thinking about it from the very beginning of our life. We are not trained to breathe, we simply breathe to live.
Let’s ask ourselves some questions. What if we start to think about breathing? What if we focused on it? What if we controlled our breath? What benefits can we get from focusing on our breath? Can we make changes in our anxiety levels? Can we affect our health? Try breath training for 5 minutes per day. (If that seems too long, start with 2).
Breathing exercises to help you relax
Here are just a few breathing techniques or exercises to help us use breathing to benefit our lives. When you are doing these, make sure you are sitting or lying down.
- The 4-7-8 technique. Also known as the Relaxing Breath. Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for 7, out for a count of 8. It is important to breathe out slower than you breathe in. The Benefits – Relaxation, reduced anxiety, helps you fall asleep. When you are learning to do this, make sure you are sitting or lying down.
- Pursed lip breathing slows down your pace of breathing. Relax your neck/shoulders. Inhale slowly for a count of 2. Pucker your lips and exhale for the count of 4.
- Resonant or coherent breathing. This maximizes heart rate variability and reduces stress. Inhale for a count of 5. Exhale for a count of 5. Try to get 5 full breaths per minute.
- Sitali Breath lowers body temperature and relaxes the mind. It’s a yoga breathing practice. Take longer breaths, but don’t force them. Sit. Stick out your tongue and curl sides up like a tube. If your tongue doesn’t do this, purse your lips, and inhale through your mouth. Exhale through your nose. (This is backward for most of us. Stay focused!) Do this for up to 5 minutes.
What if we focus on our breath? Will our lives improve? Sometimes, even the simple act of breathing can make a difference. Join our newsletter and learn breathing techniques with us here!