Breathing awareness and deep breathing

When people feel anxious, stressed or angry etc, they tend to breathe in short, shallow breaths in their upper chest. Breathing like this allows less oxygen to reach your lungs, and in doing so can increase feelings of anxiety. One way to relax when you feel anxious is to breathe more deeply. So, when you notice yourself taking shallow breaths, you can relax by changing your breathing style. The following describes a way to become aware of your breathing, and of how to change it:

  1. Pay attention to your breathing
  2. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your abdomen
  3. Notice if the hand on your upper chest or the hand on your abdomen moves the most when you breathe
  4. If you notice that the hand on your upper chest is the one moving the most, then you are taking short, shallow breaths. Try to slow down your breathing by breathing through your abdomen. Try to make it so that it's the hand on your abdomen that moves the most when you breathe. (one good way to try this is to breathe IN through your nose, and OUT through your mouth)
  5. If you can't get your abdomen to do the breathing, here is something to try. Place your hands on your rib-cage, with the tips of your middle fingers JUST touching. Try to breathe deep breaths through your nose so that your fingers come apart slightly
  6. Spend several minutes practicing this breathing.
  7. Keep your hand on your upper chest and abdomen and inhale slowly and deeply through your nose into your abdomen to push up your hand as much as feels comfortable. Your chest should only move a little.

Difficulties

Many people find it hard to get used to taking deep breaths. In fact, sometimes people can feel a little light-headed when they start to practice deep breathing. This is due to the body not being used to getting so much oxygen! If you feel REALLY light-headed, you should take a break, but keep practicing your deep breathing. With practice, your body will get used to these nice deep oxygen-rich breaths.

Practice

Practice deep breathing like this for about five to ten minutes at a time each day.

Once you are completely used to this type of breathing, try some of the following exercises:

  • Smile slightly while you breathe in, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Focus on the sound of your breathing as you breathe in and out.
  • Breathe deeply for about five to ten minutes at a time. Practice it whenever you start to feel tense.Advanced Breathing Exercises

Advanced breathing techniques

Complete Natural Breathing

  • Sit or standing up straight in good posture.
  • Breathe through your nose. As you inhale:
    1. First fill the lower section of your lungs. Your diaphragm will push your abdomen outward to make room for the air.
    2. Second, fill the middle part of your lungs as your lower ribs and chest move forward slightly to accommodate the air.
    3. Third, fill the upper part of your lungs as you raise your chest slightly and draw in your abdomen a little to support your lungs. Hold your breath for a few seconds....
  • As you exhale slowly, pull your abdomen in slightly and lift it up slowly as the lungs empty. When you have completely exhaled, relax your abdomen and chest.
  • Practice two or three times.
  • With practice, these three steps can be performed in one smooth, continuous inhalation, in a couple of seconds.

Purifying Breath

  • Sit or stand up straight in good posture.
  • Inhale a complete natural breath as you have practiced.
  • Hold this breath for a few seconds.
  • Exhale a little of the air with considerable force through a small hole between your lips as though you were blowing through a straw.
  • Stop exhaling for a moment
  • and then blow out a bit more air.
  • Repeat this procedure until all the air is exhaled in small, forceful puffs.

The Windmill

This technique will also help to make you feel a bit more alert!

  • Stand up straight with arms out in front.
  • Inhale and hold a complete natural breath.
  • Swing your arms backward in a circle several times, then reverse direc┬Čtions.
  • For variety, try rotating them alternately like a windmill!
  • Exhale forcefully through your mouth.... Practice a couple of purifying breaths.
  • Repeat this exercise as often as you like.Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)

What is it and how does it work?

One way of creating the "relaxation response" is progressive muscle relaxation.

The process of progressive muscle relaxation is simply that of isolating one muscle group, creating tension for 8 -10 seconds, and then letting the muscle relax and the tensions go. For example: take your right hand, tighten it into a fist, and notice what happens. You can feel the muscle tension increase in your hand and up your forearm. The longer you hold it, the tenser it becomes. You become aware that it does not feel good. In fact, it begins to hurt. This is an example of exaggerated muscle tension. If such tension exists around the neck you get a neck ache, and if it is in the forehead you get a headache. Continue to hold the tension and now, all at once, relax and let go. Allow your hand to flop down into your lap and notice the difference. The muscles now begin to relax, and the muscle tension just flows away, melts, dissolves, and disappears.

This process of relaxation is guaranteed to happen because it is based on a principle of muscle physiology. Whenever you create tension in a muscle and then release the tension the muscle has to relax. The muscle does not have a choice. It must happen. The interesting aspect of this process is that the muscle will not only quickly relax back to its pre-tensed state, but if it is allowed to rest, will become even more relaxed that it was. As this procedure of creating tension and then releasing it is applied to every major muscle group of the body, all of these muscles will become more relaxed than when you started.

The key to triggering the relaxation response in this manner is to take charge of the voluntary muscles by tensing them and forcing them into a state of relaxation. Once the muscles relax then the other components of the relaxation response will naturally follow. Relaxed muscles require less oxygen so the breathing pattern slows and deepens. The heart does not need to be beating so fast to carry oxygen out to tense muscles. Heart rate and blood pressure decline. The normal blood flow returns to the belly and digestion resumes. The belly is calmed. Hands and feet warm up. Such a series of bodily adaptations all start and fall naturally into place because the voluntary muscles are being directed into a state of relaxation. Soon changes in mood follow, and you become more calm and refreshed.

Practicing PMR

All you need to know to begin undoing what stress has been doing to you is how to systematically relax all the muscles in your body. Here is how you do it:

Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for about 15 minutes. Dim the lights. Locate a comfortable chair in which you can sit straight up with your feet on the floor. Sit comfortably in the chair. Pay close attention to how you feel as you begin. Notice any stiffness or tightness. Are there any aches or pains? Do you feel tense, frustrated, or keyed up? Pay attention to how you feel now because you are going to become more relaxed, and you need a point of comparison.

While sitting quietly and comfortably, slowly inhale and exhale and close your eyes as you do so.

Bend your right hand back at the wrist and briefly hold the tension.

Now relax.

Now do the same thing with the left hand. Hold the tension and now relax.

This time tighten both hands into fists and hold the tension. Feel it spread up the arms towards the elbows. Now relax.

Now bend both arms at the elbows and raise your hands up towards your shoulders. Tighten up the muscles in the biceps. Hold it. Now relax.

These three exercises have used the major muscles in the arms and started them relaxing. If you don't move them around, they will continue to relax becoming more and more relaxed, and you can forget about them.

Next, turn your attention to your face. For your forehead raise your eyebrows up a far as you can and hold the tension. Now relax.

For your eyes, squeeze the eyelids tightly together. Hold the tension. Now relax. For your jaw you just bite down and clamp your teeth together. Feel the tension along the jaw. Now relax. These three exercises have started the face relaxing.

For your neck just bend your head forward as if trying to touch your chin to your chest. Feel the tension along the back of the neck and now relax.

For your shoulders just raise them up as high as you can and notice the tension. Now let them drop all at once and relax.

For your chest you do two things at once. Take a deep breath and hold it while at the same time trying to touch your shoulder blades together by pulling your arms back. Hold it. Now relax.

For your stomach you just pull in as if trying to touch your backbone with stomach. Now relax.

For your back you arch out and away from the chair, and you can feel tension along the spine. Now relax.

With your feet flat on the floor, press down and feel the tension spread up the back of the legs. Now relax. For the right thigh raise your leg up on front of you and feel the tension build. Now relax.

Now do the same thing with the left leg and relax.

Finally, for your feet bend your toes up as if pointing towards the ceiling and feel the tension around the feet and ankles. Once again, relax.

Using Imagery

Once you become relaxed, we don't know for sure what your mind will do. It could wander off to some worry, concern, or aggravation and begin to undo your now relaxed state. You would create more stress. To be sure that does not happen; you need to use your mind in a special way.

Once you are relaxed, you use your imagination to imagine that you are in one of your favourite, peaceful, pleasant places. This could be the beach, the mountains, a vacation spot, or your front porch. It does not matter where it is as long as it would be a place where you would be peaceful and relaxed. While you are busy thinking of this peasant place, you cannot at the same time be thinking of a worry.

As you think of your peaceful place, you will continue to relax and become more and more relaxed.

Time to practice.

10 Point Meditation