Breathing. It’s something we all do, pretty much every moment of our lives. And yet, we pay it little mind … our breathing.
And that’s to our detriment, because our breathing has a huge impact on how we experience our moments and our time. Indeed, our breathing can reduce our stress – or it can increase it. And we have a great deal of control over that!
Breathing and Self-Care
In today’s frantic and fast-paced world, everything seems to happen at breakneck speed. It’s vital that you take care of yourself so you remain calm and happy throughout the day. Practices like yoga and meditation offer rich opportunities to learn to deal with stress – and in both instances, your breathing is key.
Practicing disciplines like yoga and meditation equip you to be able to remain relaxed in even the most stressful situations. But stepping back from these particular disciplines and focusing only on breathing, you’ll find that the power to relax and de-stress is really just an exhalation away!
Why is that? Well, when we are under stress one of our knee-jerk reactions is to try to manage or control the situation. We tighten up. Physiologically, our muscles tense and our heartbeat probably speeds up. Quite often, we also either hold our breath or – depending on the situation – our breathing may get faster. There’s one thing that all of these responses to stress share – they ADD to our stress!
Now, these are, as I said, knee-jerk reactions; we can change them by making conscious choices about how we take care of ourselves and respond to stress. And we can enhance and enrich those choices by practicing the skills that help!
Breathing – The Heart of the Matter
So here are some ideas to try. Yoga and meditation are the vehicles and breathing is the heart of the matter.
- Set aside specific time to focus on your in-breath and your out-breath. However you manage it, this practice has a transformative power that is simple and profound.
- One way is making time to meditate. Once you’ve practiced meditation for a while, you’ll find that your natural response to stress will change.
- Yoga is another possibility. Some teachers recommend that you practice early in the morning before starting the day for maximum effectiveness.
- Meditation can be very portable, too. Think about ways to incorporate brief moments of meditation in your day, breathing consciously and deeply while stopped at a traffic light, waiting in line at the grocery store, or in the midst of other everyday tasks.
- Focus on your breathing. The key to being able to relax on demand, even in the most stressful situations, is to learn to breathe in a way that supports, rather than stressing, your body.
- Relax into your breathing. Let your stomach stick out when you breathe in, as your lungs fill up with air. For many, this is difficult; we’ve been taught to tighten those muscles, making our breathing less than optimal.
- At first, you’ll need to consciously focus on your breathing. The more you practice, the quicker effective breathing will become second nature to you.
- Slow, deep breaths are the focus of most meditation exercises – and they really de-stress!
- Shallow breathing causes you to feel more stressed. Deep breathing creates a relaxation response within your body.
You will experience the benefits of deep breathing directly and immediately. As you continue to practice, you’ll find that it profoundly affects not just your responses to stress but the energy and creativity that you are able to access in stressful situation. Deep breathing, from your belly, is an amazingly simple and powerful tool for transforming your time!
So, what are you waiting for? The sooner you begin, the sooner you’ll experience the life changing benefits of being able to relax and feel empowered in any situation.
© Copyright 2014 Paula Eder, Ph.D.