Breathing Into Relaxation
There is a quote from Michael Sky that states: “With time, we may notice that our breathing perfectly reflects our way of life.” Could this be true? Do we breathe effectively? In most cases, no! Think of the breath as the fuel for our inner fire and the breathing mechanism as a carburetor for our engine. For optimum health, we want to keep our engine parts clean and our lungs free from pollutants. When we breathe deeper and fuller, we are not only taking in the oxygen necessary for life, we are cleansing our bodies as well. When we exhale, we release carbon dioxide, tension, and stress. Studies indicate that over 70 percent of our body's toxins are released through the breath. The purpose of breathing is not merely to move air but also to move energy. Breathing is the primary way in which humans convert energy into physical form. Oxygen plays a vital role in the chemical reactions inside the body, from releasing cellular energy to fueling our organs.
The body cannot store more than a few minutes of oxygen. A continual supply passes through the lungs almost directly into the blood for circulation. Because every cell needs energy, oxygen is the main component triggering chemical reactions for the cell to release energy.
How much emotional waste do we actually carry that needs to be released as well? With all of the work that happens within our bodies to have every organ function correctly, there are restraints that can slow down or completely stop this renewal process. Stress is a key component that affects the way in which we breathe. In our busy lives, we tend to isolate our breathing to the chest area. When this happens, the sympathetic nervous system believes there is a crisis and prepares us for "fight or flight." Chest breathing also creates chronic tension in the abdominal and chest muscles and can lead to difficulties with digestion. By consciously changing our breathing patterns, we can easily break this disabling habit in our own bodies.
By increasing your awareness of your own breathing patterns and shifting to more abdominal breathing, you can reduce the muscle tension and anxiety present with stress-related symptoms and thoughts. Diaphragmatic breathing is the easiest way of eliciting the relaxation response.
Here is a specific technique that you can use to assist with your breathing:
1. Lie down on your back on a rug on the floor. Your legs should be straight and slightly apart, your toes pointed comfortably outward, your spine straight, your arms at your sides but not touching your body, your palms up and your eyes closed.
2. Put your left hand in the center of your chest and your right hand on your abdomen, right at your waistline.
3. Without trying to change your breathing, simply notice how you are breathing. Which hand rises the most as you inhale? If your abdomen expands, then you are breathing from your abdomen or diaphragm. If your belly doesn't move or moves less than your chest, then you are breathing from your chest.
4. If you are chest breathing, concentrate on breathing in and filling your lungs starting at the bottom and ending with the top. Let your chest follow your abdomen. Try this a few times and be sure your abdomen is rising more than your chest before continuing.
5. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Your mouth and jaw are relaxed.
6. Take long, slow, deep breaths. Focus on the sound and feeling of breathing as you become more and more relaxed.
7. Continue deep breathing for about five or ten minutes at a time, once or twice a day for a couple of weeks. Then, if you like, extend this period to twenty minutes.
8. When you have learned to relax yourself using deep breathing, practice it anytime you feel yourself becoming tense.
You can breathe this way whether you are standing, sitting or lying down. While breathing exercises can be learned in a matter of minutes and some benefits experienced immediately, the profound effects of the exercise may not be fully appreciated until months of persistent practice. Get into the habit of relaxing by focusing on your breath. You will feel better, become less tense, and rid yourself of emotional waste. You only have one life to live, enjoy it and just breathe!