No one is immune to stress. From the sudden jolt to the more subtle and perpetual aggravations of life, every one of us deals with some form of stress on a daily basis. Though we may not be able to control the source of our stress, we can learn to control our reaction to it.
Our physiological stress response involves a chain of hormonal reactions that result in the release of adrenaline. This elevates our blood pressure and induces shallow breathing. When we allow ourselves to respond stress with tension or anger, we are sending the signal to continue stressing. When we breathe mindfully, our brain releases neurohormones that tell the body to relax. Training the mind to respond to stress with breath is clearly beneficial to our well being.
The first task in exploring the breath is observing and feeling it. Ideally, this is practiced in a stress free environment like a quiet room. If possible, practice in the recovery position described below. If not, find a comfortable and supportive seated position.
Observe and Feel the Breath:
Set a timer for 3 minutes with a gentle ring on low volume so you are not startled when it goes off.
You will need a chair for recovery position. Lie on your back. Support your lower legs with your calves on the chair pad, thighs roughly parallel to the walls and shins roughly parallel to the floor. Place your palms down on your belly so that thumbs touch just below the navel. Start the timer and close your eyes.
Upon inhale say “inhale” in your mind. Feel your rib cage and belly expand. Upon exhale say “exhale” in your mind. Feel your belly and ribcage deflate. Don’t to worry about the length of the inhale and exhale. Repeat this until the timer goes off.
Once you have completed a few sessions of Observe and Feel the Breath, move on to Equal Breathing. There are many ways to manipulate equal breathing including retaining the breath for a given count. The method below is for the person who is just beginning a mindful breathing practice. Equal breathing is known for its calming effects on the nervous system and can be used any time, any where.
Equal Breathing: Repeat this drill for 5 -10+ minutes.
Pick a one syllable word that feels calming to you. You will use it to fill the space between counts of your breath. The word “love” is my example, you can replace it with any positive word you like. Joy, calm, light…it’s up to you.
Find a comfortable seated position if possible. Attain proper posture and become still. If you prefer to lie down you can use the recovery position mentioned above.
Upon inhale: count 1 love, 2 love, 3 love, 4 love.
Upon exhale: count 4 love, 3 love, 2 love, 1 love.
Avoid forcing your breath. Meet your breath where it is and grow it over time. If 4 counts are too much effort, start with 2.
Distractions will come in the form of sound, feel and thought. Return to the breath without judgement when you realize you have been distracted. As long as you keep coming back to the breath you will make progress.
More advanced, deeper breathing takes practice. It takes time for the lungs to gain capacity and for the mind to develop patience. When we don’t give ourselves time to acclimate to deep breathing we do not reap it’s valuable benefits. Take time and respect where you are so that you make progress.
Next time the stressors of life arise, respond with mindful breath. Take that opportunity to improve your well being rather than train yourself to stress out. Its time to let go of habits that are not serving the great person you truly are!
NOTE: try to berate in and out through the nose. If that is not possible do what you can and work toward building the strength to do so. Eating too much food that causes mucus can affect breathing – read more here.
Ahhh, stress free Fresh aired MONTANA!
5:30AM Sunrise Danville Womens only class – Coach Briana – Supersets & Sprints
5:30AM Sunrise Danville Mens only class – Coach Joel – Supersets & Sprints
6AM Sunup Walnut Creek Co-Ed class – Coach Jentry – Strength & Cardio Endurance
9AM Sunshine Walnut Creek Womens only class – Coach Briana – Supersets & Sprints
4PM Cytosport Yoga Benicia – Coach Michelle D. (private class)