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March 21, 2017

Breathe

blowing a dandelion into the aire

Breathing is fundamental to living yet it is so often taken for granted. It is happening every moment of our life, which is why it can be easy to ignore.

The act of breathing can be considered an involuntary process but it is unique because it can also be voluntary. The difference depends on the attention and intention given to the act of breathing itself.

When we focus on our breath we become more mindful and aware of the present moment. By controlling the breath using deeper inhales and exhales, the results is a calming effect for both the mind and the body.

 

Vegus Nerve

The vegus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system and helps to regulate the heart, lungs, and digestive tract. The nerve runs vertical from the head down the length of the torso and is intersected by the diaphragm.

The science shows that the connection between breathing and relaxation is a direct result of the diagram interaction with the vegus nerve. Specifically, when using slow, controlled breathing it stimulates the nerve which in turn lowers the heart rate.

On the other hand, by taking quick, shallow breaths, the body start to hyperventilate, increasing the heart rate which leads to the feeling of anxiousness.

 

Breathing Techniques

Here are a few easy breathing exercises for you to try. Notice how they affect your body and state of mind. Think of how you can integrate them into your daily life.

The Complete Breath

Purpose: The complete breath is great for centering, grounding, and focus. It is helpful in combating feelings of anxiousness, stress, and worry.

  1. Begin with a complete exhale of all air in the lungs.
  2. Next, inhale slowly by pushing out the abdomen and expanding the lower ribcage. Imagine that you are filling up your lungs from the bottom to the top much like filling a glass of water.
  3. As you complete the inhale notice a slight lift to the shoulders but do not exaggerate the lift.
  4. Shifting back to the exhale, gradually release the air out of the lungs. It may help to control the rate of the exhale by blowing the air out of the mouth as if you were blowing through a straw.
  5. As you complete the exhale notice how the belly contracts and draws in and up.
  6. Continue to cycle between inhaling and exhaling for a minimum of three breaths.

The Extra Breath

Purpose: The extra breath helps to develop the breath by elongating the inhales and exhales. Like the complete breath, it is also good for focus and calming the nerves.

  1. Take a complete inhale.
  2. At the very end of the inhale take one extra burst of air into the lungs and hold for a brief moment before exhaling.
  3. Exhale completely.
  4. At the very end of the exhale make one extra push of air out of the lungs and hold for a brief moment before inhaling.
  5. Continue to cycle between inhaling and exhaling for a minimum of three breaths.

The Rapid Breath

Purpose: The rapid breath has the opposite effect as the two previous techniques. It invigorates the mind and body, awakening the senses, and reduces the feeling of grogginess.

  1. Take short breaths, breathing in and out in quick succession (a couple breaths per second.) Use the diaphragm to help make the movements sharp with an in and out motion to the belly. You will be using a very limited capacity of the lungs, which is ok.
  2. Continue to cycle the breath at a consistent speed for about a minute. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded return to you normal breathing pattern.

 

Breathing is fundamental to living. It is happening every moment of our lives. To help find balance in day to day life, take a moment to pause and breathe.

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