Breathing Tips for Relaxation
Try These Breathing Exercises to Help with Relaxation
Breathing is so simple, even a baby can do it, right? We all breathe without even thinking about it. Breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which also controls your heartbeat. Think of it as the “automatic” control mechanism for life sustaining activities than function largely below your consciousness.
Breathing in brings necessary oxygen into your body and breathing out releases the carbon dioxide your body does not need. But breathing, in a controlled fashion, can also be a powerful relaxation tool. Research has shown that breathing exercises can have an immediate effect on blood pressure.
Try these 3 breathing exercises. For many people, one or two will be the most effective in bringing on a relaxation response. For others, all 3 will be equally effective. It’s best to being to practice them when you’re not feeling stressed. This will help you learn the techniques so that you can use them when you are feeling stressed. But don’t stop there! A daily session of controlled breathing can help keep you in a relaxed state more of the time.
Also known as 4-7-8 breathing or abdominal breathing, belly breathing is a focused and controlled breathing technique you can do anywhere. Ideally, belly breathing should be performed twice a day or whenever stress encroaches on your well-being and peace of mind. This breathing technique can be performed sitting up or laying down:
- Begin by placing one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take a deep breath in through your nose, the belly hand should rise first and higher than the one on the chest. Imagine your are sucking all the air oput fo the room. Breathe in to the count of 4.
- Hold your breath to the count of 7.
- Finish by exhaling slowly through your mouth for a count of 8. Gently contract your belly to breath out all the remaining air from your lungs.
Repeat the cycle four more times for a total of 5 deep breaths.
Sometimes called Coherent Breathing, 5-A-Minute breathing simply means breathing at a rate of five breaths per minute. This is smack in the middle of the resonant breathing range. The resonant breathing range has been demonstrated to be the rate at which Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is increased in most people. Higher HRV is associated with a healthier cardiovascular system, a more resilient stress-response system, and better overall health and longevity.
You can use a watch with a second hand or an online timer like the one found here, but for most people the simplest way to perform 5-A-Minute breathing is to count.
This breathing technique is performed sitting up.
- Begin by completely exhaling
- Breathe in to the slow count of 5
- Breathe out to the slow count of 5
Repeat the cycle a total of 5 times.
Start with one minute, ideally 3 times per day. Work your way up to 5-8 minutes. If you can’t do 3 sessions, or if you forget to do a session, don’t worry, you’re still getting the benefits from even one session of 5-A-Minute breathing.
This is an easy one. It’s also effective!
- Begin by sitting up straight
- Now inhale while consciously relaxing your belly muscles. Imagine that your belly is filling up with air
- When your belly feels full, keep inhaling and fill up your chest. You should feel your chest and rib cage expand
- Hold your breath to the count of 2
- Then begin to exhale from your chest as slowly as possible
- Pull in your belly to exhale all the remaining breath
Once you get the hang of full breathing, it can be helpful to do it with your eyes closed. Begin with one minute and work your way up to 5 minutes.