Learning to Relax (2)
Correct breathing is an essential part of learning to relax, so today
we’ll look at how to recapture the way we all used to breathe
as a matter of habit. Breathing plays a large part in the ability to
relax because breathing has a psychological as well as a physiological
effect on the body. Just as thoughts can change breathing patterns,
so too can the way we breathe affect the way we think. Slow breathing
promotes calm. Rapid breathing encourages overstimulation of the nervous
system. Proper breathing can lower the metabolic rate and make us feel
more relaxed. The slower the metabolic rate, the calmer you will be.
Yoga is a technique which is excellent for reducing stress. One of
the main factors incorporated into yogic philosophy is learning how
to control the breath. But you can still learn to relax through breath
control without going to a yoga class. Here are some simple tips on
mastering breath control.
- Breathe with the diaphragm, not the upper lung. To best achieve
this, lie down on your back and place your left hand on your chest
and your right hand on your belly. Now breathe as usual. If you are
breathing correctly, your right hand should move up and down rhythmically
with the breath, while the hand that is on your chest should only
move slightly, if at all.
- Practice this breathing technique until it becomes a habit. If
you find it difficult to force the breath down into the belly due
to years of shallow breathing, try lying on your back with your arms
extended behind your head, or even with your hands cradling the back
of your head. This posture raises the diaphragm and makes it even
easier to breathe into the belly. Once you get used to the sensation
of correct breathing, you can easily incorporate it into a vertical
standing or sitting pose, then gradually extend it to everyday activities,
such as ironing, typing, or driving.
- If you find that you are a habitual shallow breather, take time
out during the day to just focus on your breathing and check that
you are breathing down into the belly. It’s surprising how often
you will catch yourself doing shallow breathing, which overstimulates
the body. A sure sign of shallow breathing is when your shoulders
rise as you breathe. If you catch yourself doing this, gently make
a conscious effort to breathe down into your belly.
- Once you have mastered correct breathing, counting the incoming
and outgoing breath with promote further relaxation. Try breathing
in to a count of four, holding for a count of four, and then exhaling
to a count of four. Most importantly, do not strain. If this is too
difficult, drop the count to a number you feel more comfortable with.
In time, you will be able to increase the time taken to inhale and
exhale, thus lowering the number of breaths per minute.
Slower breathing promotes greater calm, and over time, changing the
way you breathe can literally change your life!
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