3 breathing exercises for relaxation
3 Stress Relief Breathing Exercises to Calm the Mind
Possibly you have been so stressed that you couldn’t think clearly?
At that moment, everything was too much for you. Concentration and search for a solution was not possible.
In doing so, you felt a little anxious or nervous.
In those moments, there is a way you can take back your control:
If you can calm your breathing in stressful situations, you can also calm your mind and rest within yourself.
That’s what this article is about. The interaction between stress and breathing.
How stress affects your breathing
Stress is closely linked to our breathing. When you change one, you affect the other.
Your breathing is an autonomous function. This means your breathing is a vital basic function and active day and night. However, you can still consciously take control and consciously decide how and when you breathe.
When you breathe very fast, your nervous system turns on. You are now prepared to trigger the fight or flight response (also called Fight or Flight).
When you transition to slow, deliberate breathing, the endorphins released allow you to slowly relax and recover.
What happens to your breathing now when you are stressed?
When you feel anxious, your body is preparing you to run away or fight. In anticipation of urgent action and the additional need for oxygen, you begin to take in more air. However, if you do not become active now, you will inhale more air than you consume.
This excessive breathing can cause symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, dizziness, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, etc.
Excessive breathing can also lead to insomnia.
In other words, good breathing can reduce your physical activation.
Your thinking slows down and you enter a state of calm.
You can breathe through your mouth or nose. Nasal breathing kills bacteria and viruses and relaxes blood vessels in the airways. This allows more oxygen to enter the blood.
Your nose allows you to take in more oxygen from the environment than mouth breathing ( about up to 20% more).
Slowing your breathing to about 6-9 breaths a minute lowers your heart rate, dilates your blood vessels, and lowers stress levels. Lengthening the exhalation with long, slow exhalations puts us into an altered state of consciousness that can look like slow-wave sleep on a brain scan
What breathing exercises help with stress?
The mindful breathing
Find a comfortable place where you can sit upright. Ideally, it is quiet here.
Close your eyes and notice your physical sensation (the contact of your body with the seat and your feet on the floor)
Focus on the sensation of inhaling (the air coming in through the nose and the lifting of the chest and abdomen)
Breathe in and out – without expectation
Start focusing on the sensation of exhaling (the air coming out of the nose and the chest and abdomen descending)
Notice your thoughts, feelings and sensations that accompany your breaths and let them pass by without elaborating.
If your thoughts wander, return your attention to your breathing as it is right now
Repeat this as long as you feel comfortable with it
It may take some time, especially in the beginning, until you feel comfortable with the exercise. As you practice, it becomes easier to focus on your breath and avoid letting your mind wander.
Reportedly, this method is also used by US Navy Saals to remain calm under pressure.
Plus, this exercise is super easy to remember and use. You think of the sides of a square when you breathe.
Inhale to 4, hold to 4, exhale with 4, hold to 4 and inhale again.
(Count to 4 on each of these steps.
A variation on this is: inhale to 4; hold 4; exhale 6; hold 2, inhale again.
This variant is designed to enhance the relaxation.
Repeat this breathing for 6 passes.
This technique was made famous by Dr. Andrew Weil. This breathing exercise allows your body to relax deeply. Therefore, you can also use it well before falling asleep.
Breathe in with mouth closed to the count of 4
Hold your breath while counting to seven
Exhale through slightly compressed lips to the count of 8
Repeat this cycle 4 times
This technique needs some practice in the beginning, so you can repeat it 2 times a day.
Bonus tip: Here’s how you can slow down your breathing
Set your stopwatch to one minute. Breathe in your current rhythm and count your breaths. If you get to 20 breaths or more within that minute, you’re breathing too fast and too shallow.
This is a sign of increased stress levels and your body is not getting enough oxygen. You can actively counteract this. Set your timer to one minute again. Now breathe out slowly and completely. You don’t breathe in again until your body feels the need to want to breathe. You wanted to be well under 20 breaths now.
A relaxed breath is between 6 to 12 breaths per minute.
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