"Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing
and can even help with stress-related health problems
ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders."
— Andrew Weil, M.D.
Breathing: The Foundation of Relaxation and Life Itself Teachers of relaxation breathing, such as Dr. Andrew Weil, know that practicing mindful breathing for 20-30 minutes each day is key to restoring and maintaining both physical and mental health. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and major organs, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This promotes a state of calm and wellbeing. Listening to my voice guide you through breathing techniques takes your focus away from your stressors and worries, connecting you to your body so that you feel grounded and centered. Deep, intentional breathing is deeply relaxing in its own right, and becomes even more powerful when used in conjunction with the other relaxation techniques in my guided relaxation training sessions and recordings.
I use a variety of breathing exercises to help my listeners prepare their minds and bodies for relaxation. Some examples are: deep breathing, the cleansing breath, the energizing breath, exhaling with sound, and the traveling breath. For these breathing exercises to be effective, it’s important to be in a comfortable setting that makes you feel safe.
Deep Breathing involves breathing in slowly and deeply through your nose, letting the air fill your lungs and abdomen, and then slowly exhaling through your nose or mouth. It is a simple and effective way to prepare your mind and body to enter into a deep state of relaxation. You can listen to a sample of deep breathing on my guided relaxation recording "A Time for Relaxation"
Some people find it helpful to place one hand on the chest and one hand on the abdomen. This will allow you to feel your abdomen move as you breathe.
The Cleansing Breath is a relaxation technique that is used in cultures across the globe. It involves breathing in deeply through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, visualizing the breath washing through your body and removing stress or worry, leaving your body refreshed and relaxed. You can listen to a sample recording of "The Cleansing Breath" on my album "Uplifting Guided Relaxation".
The Energizing or Stimulating Breath is adapted from yogic breathing techniques. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness. Here is an example from Dr. Andrew Weil:
- Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be equal in duration, but as short as possible. This is a noisy breathing exercise.
- Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm, suggesting a bellows. Breathe normally after each cycle.
- Do not do for more than 15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice the Stimulating Breath, you can increase your time by five seconds or so, until you reach a full minute.
If done properly, you may feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout. You should feel the effort at the back of the neck, the diaphragm, the chest and the abdomen. Try this diaphragmatic breathing exercise the next time you need an energy boost and feel yourself reaching for a cup of coffee.
Exhaling with Sound is another effective breathing technique that uses your voice to release tension and lead your body and mind to a pleasantly relaxed state. It involves breathing in deeply so that air fills your abdomen, then hold the breath for a few moments, and, 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.
Let your breath out with a sigh of release—ahhh!
The Traveling Breath involves inhaling deeply and then visualizing your breath traveling to or filling a certain part of your body. When you exhale, you imagine the stress, tension or discomfort leaving that part of the body. On your next inhale, the breath travels to a another part of your body, and so on. Imagining your breath traveling through your body can help ease pain, promote sleep, connect you to your body, and enhance your sense of well-being. I recorded a version of the traveling breath, called "The Sustaining Breath" on my album "A Time for Sleep".
To experience these breathing techniques, you can listen to samples of my guided relaxation recordings or attend my relaxation training sessions by contacting me.
May you find some time to breathe, stretch and enjoy!
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is the only moment.”
— Thích Nhất Hạnh
Here are some resources to help you learn more about breathing and relaxation: