In America, and most of the developed world, we experience stress as a response to every day life. Our bodies stress response was developed to protect us from danger, from a lion or bear trying to eat us. These are not the dangers we are not exposed to on a daily basis yet our body still experiences a stress response. It is up to us to train our bodies to realize that we are safe and protected in our modern life filled with deadlines, commitments, and the frustrations others put on us.
Being able to take complete, controlled breaths is one easy way to take back the power and lower your stress response. You don’t need to be sitting all fancy to practice breathing. Personally, I prefer to lie down. I feel that it opens up my airway and I don’t need to pay attention to my posture to get the same benefits.
Begin by just paying attention to how you are currently breathing. Is your stomach moving? Is your chest moving? Both? Is air going in and out of your nose or mouth? A combination? How long does it take you to breath in? Breathing out? Are you pausing between breaths or in the middle?
After you have spent a few minute observing your breath start adjusting your breathing so that it is more regular. I suggest first starting with an easy counting method. Breathe in 1, 2, 3, 4 and then breathe out 1, 2, 3, 4. Count regular and slow. The slower you count the harder it will be. If you feel yourself struggling to breathe at the speed you are counting, speed up your counting a bit. Try to stretch out your breathing to get a more full breath of air.
Practice this technique daily for about 10 minutes. When I was first practicing conscious breathing I found that playing music while I practiced served me. This was because I could practice keeping time to the music while breathing, counting the music. I had to search for a few songs to find one that fit a breathing pace that fit a longer breath than my natural breath that was still comfortable for me. After about 2 weeks this breathing practice should become easy and you can start challenging yourself with additional techniques. Continue to return to this practice to begin all of your breathing practice sessions.
Next week we will be taking our breathing practice to the next level to learn how to ground and center, another way to gain control of your life and reduce your stress load. Continue to practice breathing until then and if you are interested in more stress reduction practices consider purchasing A Beginner’s Guide to Wellness or having a consultation with a Wellness Practitioner.