Breathing is fundamental to our life and usually taken for granted. With every breath, you take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. You inhale a life force and exhale a waste product. Proper breathing techniques can release tension, stress, muscle tension and fatigue. Typically, there are two types of breathing patterns: chest breathing and abdominal breathing. We commonly use chest breath when we are under stress. It is shallow breathing. The chest expands and the shoulder rise to take in air. In abdominal breathing, inhaled air is drawn deep into the lungs as the abdomen expands. By becoming aware of your breathing patterns and shifting to more abdominal breathing, you can reduce stress related symptoms and muscle tension. Try this breathing exercise for anxiety.
Let’s discover how you currently breathe before we practice abdominal breathing. Put one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest. Observe your breath without trying to change it. Spend a few minutes just quietly observing. Take your time. Which hand rises more as you breathe? If it the hand on your chest, you are doing shallow chest breathing. If the hand on your abdomen is rising more, you are doing deep abdominal breathing. Our goal is to switch to abdominal breathing more.
To practice abdominal breathing, lie on your back on the floor, a bed or couch, whatever is most comfortable for you. Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen. Imagine that your abdomen is a balloon and that as you inhale you are filling it up with air. Try inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. As you inhale, first your abdomen, then your middle chest and then your upper chest will expand in a smooth movement. Imagine filling a glass with water from the bottom to the top. Try to practice this a few minutes, until your inhale and exhale are smooth movements. When you have the technique, try doing it while sitting and standing. Try to practice this once or twice a day until it becomes naturally and flowing to you. As with most of the tools, it is best practiced in a non-stressful situation before you incorporate it into a fearful situation.
The following is a specific way to breath to release tension. You will use you abdominal breathing in a specific way. It is time to take it up a notch.
1. Inhale and say to yourself, “Breath in.” It is not necessary to put your hands on your chest and abdomen, unless you find that helpful.
2. Hold your breath a moment before your exhale.
3. exhale slowly and deeply as you say to yourself, “Relax.”
4. As you hold your breath for a moment, notice any parts of your body that you are holding tension. When you exhale, feel the tension leave your body.
5. Practice tis for five to ten minutes as a time.
6. Practice it in non-stressful situations a few times a day. When you are comfortable with the technique, practice it in stressful situations.
Watch the video and together we will practice this technique with soothing music in the background.