Not all tension and stress is harmful or bad for you – some stress is actually good for you. However, in order to function effectively in the longer term, the body, mind and spirit need to find a balance between tension and relaxation. The ability to relax is necessary for your body, mind and spirit to restore energy levels, to heal and repair any damage from stressful events, and helps you stay sane and enjoy life! Learning to breathe correctly is one way of helping achieve this balance – air is the currency of life. Without air we would no longer exist in physical form.
By regularly tuning in to the body we can gain valuable feedback in terms of our emotional and physical well-being. The emphasis on the breath will enable you to begin to use it as an anchor. Whenever your mind wanders (and it will), you can use the breath to bring yourself back into the body and the present moment. By learning to breath deeply and focus mindfully on your breathing you can learn to switch off the stress reaction and activate the calming, relaxation response.
Now, to learn how to achieve this balance, place your left hand on your chest and your right hand on your stomach and inhale. As you inhale through your nose, allow the abdominal muscles (your belly) to expand naturally and notice the rise of your hand on your belly as you inhale and then the hand on your chest rising as you fill t
he chest completely with the new air. Imagine filling a balloon – your lungs – they fill with air from the bottom up. Then, as you exhale, out through your mouth, allow your belly to naturally relax as the chest softens and relaxes too.
Take 3 of these deep breaths and notice how you feel. It can often feel difficult at first to breathe in this way. However, the more you practice the easier it will become.
To check yourself and make sure that you have got the hang of this relaxing breathing technique do this simple test. Place both hands on your tummy at waist level with the fingertips touching. When you take a diaphragmatic breath – which means that you allow your belly to expand on the inhale – your fingertips will naturally separate as the air rushes into the belly and then fills the chest. As you exhale, the tips of your fingers will come together again and touch. Repeat this several times. Train the body how to do this and let go of the old hypnotic program of, “stomach in, chest out”.
As well as activating the relaxation response, with practice you’ll notice other benefits such as renewed vigour and energy, more clarity of thought which helps you to concentrate on tasks at hand and be more focused.
When you are learning diaphragmatic breathing and beginning to practice the technique you may get a little light headed. If this happens, it simply means you are changing the mixture of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your lungs. You are increasing the oxygen and lowering the carbon dioxide. If you do feel light headed know that it will pass and you will begin to feel refreshed.
Developing the Habit
As you can see, diaphragmatic breathing is easy to learn and to master. Get into the habit of taking these deep breaths at a special time(s) each day.
- Take six or eight deep breaths upon waking in the morning,
- Then repeat them after lunch and once more after dinner.
- Every time you reach for a door handle take a big deep belly breath.
- Before you pick up the telephone to make or answer a call, take a deep breath and add a smile.
- When you stop in traffic, for any reason, breath deeply several times to reduce your stress and remain balanced.
- Practice breathing this way as you speak. You will develop a better voice and reduce tension throughout your body at the same time.
Keeping the body, mind and spirit in balance and filled with usable energy is only a deep breath away. You can manage the stress of everyday life. One way is to make the commitment to practice this technique for a month. Chart your results. You will notice an improved quality of life, more energy and find that you can more clearly use your intuition to guide you on a regular basis.