We take lots of things for granted, breathing being one of the biggest of them! This is because breathing is an unconscious action and very rarely do we think about our breathing and ask "are we breathing properly to maximise the best health benefits?"
When we are stressed our muscle tone changes and we become more tense. This tension has an effect on the whole body. In our abdomen it restricts the diaphragm’s freedom of movement and as a result our breathing gets more restricted to the chest area; hence we breathe quicker and shallower, resulting in more tension, breathlessness and a feeling of anxiety increased stress.
When we are being Mindful, we are giving ourselves permission to be aware of everything around us, using all of our senses to see, feel, hear and smell. Taking control of our breathing by bringing it into our consciousness helps us to ‘ground’ ourselves and places us in a position to be able to use all our fantastic senses in a positive way to reduce anxiety and stress.
When we consciously take control of our breathing we can use it as a tool to reduce our physical arousal level, thereby ‘telling’ our body that the perceived threat is no longer there. Breathing is the easiest, most natural and quickest ‘in the moment’ stress reduction technique. If your breathing is relaxed then the rest of your autonomic nervous system will follow suit.
Taking control of our breathing pattern
- Sit comfortably in a relaxed manner but upright with you’re your back slightly away from your chair and your feet flat on the floor with your legs uncrossed. Allow your arms to rest gently on the top of your legs and the hands fall naturally upward.
- Breathe at your normal, natural pace. Be aware of where the breath is coming from and where it is going to.
- Imagine that you have a balloon in your belly. What you are aiming to do is to let the balloon expand and contract naturally, breathing in and out without forcing it.
- Consciously breathe from your belly and feel your chest rise and fall.
- You can either aim for a particular count e.g. breath in for 5, hold for 2, breath out for 6, hold for 2 or just breathe in comfortably, hold the breath for a second or two and then breathe out comfortably, holding your breath for a second or two before inhaling again.
- Repeat this cycle 5 times taking deep breaths in, holding for a count of two breathing out for a count of 6, holding for 2 and so on.
- You may find that your mind starts to wander; this is totally natural, just accept the thoughts, dismiss them and return your focus to your breathing.
- Enjoy the sensations and feelings and be aware of everything that is happening to you and around you
This breathing technique forms the basis for the majority of meditations and helps to ground you as well as being an excellent relaxation tool.
The more often you practice the technique the more likely it is that it will become your default breathing pattern.
Happy breathing and if you would like to find out more about the RHG Mindfulness course, please click here.