Learning to Breathe

images-3.jpegBreathe.
Notice your breathing right now. Were you holding your breath? Was your breath shallow? Are you breathing from your upper chest?

I want to teach you to breathe.

Many years ago, I learned to use breathing as a way of managing my body’s tendency to to amp up–a frustrating phone call,  losing my wallet, running late, etc.– it changed me forever. Suddenly, in the middle of feeling my body start to zoom up, I’d let all the air out, take a few slow breaths in (while still wandering around in search of wallet) and like a tight balloon that suddenly has all the air released, I’d be way calmer.

This was a shocking thing to realize– that for all of my life I had been holding my breath most of the day. So I studied breathing.

Lots is being written on breathing, the most natural thing we do. If its so natural, why would we have to try to get better at it? Its been discovered that even subtle levels of stress effect the quality of our breathing. When the brain feels our breathing shift, it responds with stress hormones and a whole cascade of mood-altering effects takes over. The body-mind connection.

In the breathing studies the researchers found out that most people are not breathing properly–they are breathing from their chest– (which is shallow breathing and can increase stress) rather than from the whole torso.  Effective breathing takes practice–sometimes weeks of practice before it is effective for lowering stress levels.

This is a great practice for lowering Anxiety.

Okay. I want everyone to get the relief I get from consciously learning to breathe well. The guidelines below were written by a combination of Breathers: Will Shanklin, Dr. Diana Walcutt, Dr. Andrew Weil, and me.

4X4X4 Breathing

This is called the 4 by 4 by 4 breathing  because you’ll breath in for 4 seconds, breath out for 4 seconds, and practice this for 4 minutes to learn to do it well.  This is immediately calming and designed to help you reclaim your capacity to maintain calmer states, no matter where you are.

2 important things

1.  Learn to breathe from your diaphragm (from your torso area) and make that pattern a part of your daily life.

2.  Shift to diaphragmatic breathing whenever you begin to feel stressed. Catch it early.

Conscious Breathing

1.  Gently and slowly inhale a normal amount of air through your nose, filling only our lower lungs.    Place your hands on your tummy so that you can feel it rising and falling with each breath.   Count to 4  as you do this.

2.  Exhale slowly through your lips, counting to 4 as you do so.

3.  When you get to the bottom of the breath, hold for 1 second, then breath in for 4 seconds. Repeat for 4 minutes.

4.  For added focus,  slowly repeat the word “relax” or “calming” “letting go”

Practice

images-1.jpeg

Alternative health icon Dr. Andrew Weil says: “If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.”

and,

“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.”

Train yourself to check-in on your breathing. Breathe from your diaphragm. 4x4x4.

Breathe.

Be well.

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