The average person can go without food for several weeks, without water (or liquid) for several days, but only a few minutes without oxygen. We breathe in and out more than 20,000 times in a day and over 100 million times in our lifetime. Correct breathing causes tension to fall from your body, it clarifies and focuses your mind and helps you to feel a feeling of well being in your body.
When you experience stress (or negative emotions such as anger, fear) your breath becomes irregular, restricted, shallower, shorter and will come more from the chest. Similarly when you are relaxed, breathing slows down and drops down further into the belly. So on the one hand there is relaxed breathing and on the other hand stressed or “fight or flight” breathing.
Nature has given us both of these breathing patterns designed for different situations. When we perceive a threat a few things happen to our breathing:
- our breathing speeds up
- our belly muscles tighten
- our breath moves towards our chest
When there is no longer a threat our breathing will be relaxed:
- breath drops down to our belly
- belly muscles relax
- breathing slow down
The good news is that we can use our conscious minds to notice whether we are in a stressfull situation and do something about it by consciously taking deeper and slower breaths and by consciously shifting our breathing from the chest towards the belly.
If you suffer from Adrenal Fatigue then you are likely looking for anything that you can do to improve your condition. One of the easiest, most efficient and cost effective techniques for reducing stress and increasing relaxation is to just do some breathing exercises.
You will be amazed at how easy they are and how much better they will make you feel. Working with breath can be a powerful technique to help center the mind and to turn your direction away from the material world to the non physical.
Below are some great exercises to help you become more relaxed, more aware of your breathing patterns and to help you develop a healthier breathing style.
The Benefits Of Breathing
When done correctly breathing exercises can improve your blood pressure, lower your heart rate and reduce the stress on your nervous system. Whenever you are very stressed you will notice the changes that happen too your body, your heart rate speeds up, your blood pressure rises and your breathing comes in short gasps. This shallow breathing is because you start breathing from your chest instead of from your diaphragm.
This rapid, shallow breathing only increases your stress and your nervous system becomes overwhelmed. But you can reverse this process and stop the stress on your nervous system and your body. All it takes is to slow your breathing and bring it down to your diaphragm. This will calm your body and in turn calm your nervous system.
Tip: When you take a deep breath in, your belly should move outward and expand. When you normally breathe in does your belly expand or your chest? You can place one hand on your belly and one on your chest to see which hand moves.
A Very Simple Exercise
One of the simplest yet most powerful exercises is nothing more than to just pay attention to your own breath by following it. So, you don’t try to influence it, you don’t try to change the rhythm and not try to speed it up or slow it down.
You can do this exercise anyplace, anytime, anywhere. Whether you are in the line at the supermarket, in traffic, at work, on the couch or in bed. Just follow your breath without influencing it. This helps you break the usual flow of thoughts, mental images and attention to external stimuli and puts your mind briefly in a neutral place.
You want to make your breath more regular, slower, deeper and quieter. If you make this simple little exercise a habit it will change your breath into the direction of becoming more regular, slower, deeper and quieter.
You may find that your attention wanders (usually to your thoughts), if this is the case, just gently bring back your attention to your breathing. This is exactly the concept of meditation, learning to focus your attention and bring it back to an object (in this case your breath). You can do this for a few cycles or minutes and there is no right or wrong way to do it.
Exhalation First Exercise
Start this exercise by following your breath again. Notice how you breathe in and out. Our breath cycles consists out of an inhalation, a pause and an exhalation. We see the inhalation usually as the beginning of the cycle and the exhalation as the ending of the cycle. Now change this concept in your head. So you start with the exhalation and then a pause and then the inhalation. Do this for a few minutes and again do not try to influence the breath.
This exercise helps you to take control over the breathing process and to deepen your breathing by increasing the amount of air going in and out of your lungs.
Four Qualities Exercise
As pointed out earlier, you want your breath to have four specific qualities; you want your breath to be deeper, slower, more regular and quieter. First observe your breath again for a minute. Now consciously focus on your breath and make it deeper, slower, more regular and quieter. This is an exercise that you can actually use as a technique when something throws you off balance and stresses you. For as many breaths as you can make your breathing deeper, slower, more regular and quiter. You will notice how this quiets your mind and relaxes your nervous system.
Be Breathed Exercise
This is a handy exercise that you can use when you are falling asleep or use first thing in the morning when you wake up. This exercise involves your imagination, so start off by closing your eyes. Then follow your breath again for a minute. Now you have to imagine that every time you take a breath, it is not you who is breathing, but instead it is the universe filling your lungs with air. Likewise, each time you are exhaling, you should imagine that you are not exhaling, but the universe is drawing the air out of your lungs.
The Relaxation Exercise
This exercise is one of the best exercises to help you relax. During this exercise you will inhale through your nose quietly and you will exhale through your mind loudly. You should purse your lips and make a “whoosh” sound.
Begin by exhaling through your mouth completely and then inhale quietly through your noise to the count of 4. Then hold your breath to the count of 7 after which you should exhale through your mouth loudly to the count of 8. You should repeat this for a total of 4 cycles (after some practise you could go up to as much as 8 cycles, but never higher).
The ratio of 4-7-8 is very important for this exercise, so you have to make sure to exhale twice as long as you inhale. After practise and over time you will be able to slow down the counting as you will be able to hold your breath for longer periods of time.
It is recommended to do breathing exercises twice a day at a minimum in order for it to have a good and healthy effect on your breathing pattern and feelings of well being.