I invite you to take a moment to become aware of your breath:
- Is it quick or slow?
- Does it feel shallow or deep?
- Is your breath flowing smoothly or is it irregular?
- Notice if there is any sound associated with your breath.
- Are there any emotions or feelings that come up for you as you pay attention to your breathing?
Breathing is a natural process that we do all day, every single day, without paying much attention to it. However, breathing can also be a powerful tool to calm the mind and body and enhance your wellbeing. Some people only focus on breathing when there is an issue, but practicing intentional breathing will improve your overall health as well as help you access the relaxation response when you need it most.
Intentional (or mindful) breathing is a great technique because you can practice it anywhere, it works for any age or fitness level and you don’t need any fancy or expensive equipment. Your breath practice will support you in whatever activities you are already doing. It’s a simple tool with profound effects that can help you focus your thoughts and feel more grounded and centered. Here are some of the ways intentional breathing can help you:
When You Are Feeling Stressed
When faced with unexpected or trying situations, the following can occur: your blood pressure shoots up, your muscles become tense and stress takes the wheel, leaving you scrambling to overcome the obstacles that are before you. Intentional breathing is one way to combat the sudden stress in your life. Calm, deep breaths have been proven to lower your blood pressure as well as clear your head and allow you to focus better on how to overcome the issue. Since life is unpredictable, having a breathing technique in your back pocket can give you an additional tool to prepare you for what is ahead. One of my favorite breathing techniques for relieving stress is called exhaling with sound:
- Breathe in deeply so that air fills your abdomen.
- Hold the breath for a few moments.
- As you release air through your mouth, make a resonant sound such as “ahhh…”, like a sigh of release.
The combination of breath and sound is very effective in releasing stress and tension from deep inside. Repeat the cycle 3 to 5 times until you feel calmer.
Throughout the world, the art of breathing has been practiced by all cultures and age groups—everyone can benefit from practicing intentional breathing. The different techniques can help depending on your lifestyle, daily routine, and overall level of health. Learning how to include breathing exercises in your everyday life can yield positive results for your health and wellbeing. Deep breathing is a simple and effective technique to prepare your mind and body to enter into a deep state of relaxation:
- Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen. This will allow you to feel your abdomen move as you breathe.
- Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, letting the air fill your lungs and abdomen.
- Slowly exhale through your nose or mouth.
- Repeat 3 to 5 times, or until you establish a slow, regular breathing pattern.
Supplementing Your Relaxation Training
Intentional breathing might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to relaxation. The media often focuses on pursuits such as yoga, Pilates, and meditation. While these techniques are excellent options for a healthy relaxation routine, intentional breathing is the foundation of all relaxation techniques. Reviewing the different types of breathing can give you a deeper understanding of how intentional breathing can give you a new lease on life. Breathing techniques require practice to fine tune and can improve both your mental and physical health by leaps and bounds if you use them on a regular basis. All it takes to begin is dedicating some time and shining the brilliant light of your awareness on something that we all take for granted on a daily basis—our breath!
You can contact me with any questions about breathing and/or other relaxation techniques by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org