Talking About Breathing

Breathing shouldn’t be something that takes up much thought. I mean, it’s as easy as, well, breathing, right? But our hectic lives and stress and tension can affect our breathing. Our breathing can actually contribute to the build up of toxins in our body if done improperly which can make our ability to cope even harder. The thing we most take for granted may be adding to our headaches, panic attacks, stress and fatigue.

The moral of this is we can just breathe. HOW we breathe matters. Being more intentional about our breathing can help us feel better, not just stay alive. Below I’ve included a couple of breathing exercises to try. I first tried this for help with sleeping and was amazed when it WORKED! I was a skeptic but it was one of the only ways I could turn off my brain and get to sleep. The key is first learning correct breathing technique. When we are born, we breathe with our abdomen; our diaphragm. If you’ve ever taken singing lessons, it’s what they tell you helps sustain your breath to hold long notes and produce a good sound. Somewhere along the way, we stop doing that and start to breathe from our chest in shorter, shallower breaths. If you have the ability to watch a baby sleep or breathe, you’ll see that as it breathes, its stomach moves up and down, not its chest. A baby naturally breathes deeply and wholly. It would be nice if life didn’t get in the way and we stopped taking these blissful deep breaths! This first one is the one I used to fall asleep: Mindful Breath Counting
  1. Practice this exercise while sitting upright to enhance mindfulness awareness. Later, if you like, you can use it in bed as a technique to help you fall asleep.
  2. Use slow, deep abdominal breathing.
  3. Count each exhalation to yourself. When you reach the fourth exhalation, start over again at one. Here is how you do it: Inhale…exhale (“one”)…inhale…exhale (”two”)…inhale…exhale (“three”)…inhale…exhale (“four”)…inhale…exhale (“one”)…and so forth.
  4. If your mind wanders to bodily sensations, noises, daydreams, worries and so forth, simply observe those thoughts without judgments or expectation, and then return to counting your breaths.
  5. If you lose track of your count, simply start over again at “one”.
  6. Continue counting your exhalations in sets of four for 10 minutes. Gradually increase to 20 minutes.
I promise if you try it to help getting to sleep you won’t need 20 minutes! Letting Go of Tension Exercise
  1. Inhale diaphragmatically (with your abdomen rather than your chest expanding) as you say to yourself “breathe in”.
  2. Hold your breath a moment before you exhale.
  3. Exhale slowly and deeply as you say to yourself “exhale”.
  4. Inhale slowly, then hold your breath for a moment, noticing any parts of your body that tense up.
  5. As you exhale, feel the tension leaving your body. With each exhalation, feel increasingly relaxed as you release tension.
  6. Pause between each breath, finding your natural rhythm.
  7. When thoughts, feelings and sensations catch your attention, simply observe them, then re-focus on your breathing.
  8. Once you’re comfortable with this exercise, practice it throughout the day in non-stressful situations for five to 20 minutes at a time. Then try using it in stressful situations to reduce your tension.
  9. As you practice, focus on exhaling completely: you must exhale fully before you can breathe in deeply.
Please share your experiences with trying these ideas and their success for you. We can all use a little less tension and some more fresh breaths! Till next time, Shannon  ]]>