Wouldn’t it be great if there was a first aid tool that you could easily use to feel better when stress takes over? Upset stomach, acid reflux, headache, a knot in your throat, a burning sensation in your chest...What if I told you that there's something you can do to feel better anytime, anywhere. You don’t even need anything to activate it. You only need to…breathe.
Breathing deeply has been shown to help trigger the “relaxation response” of your parasympathetic nervous system; reducing stress, anxiety, anger, and inflammation. How does it do that? By stimulating the vagus nerve, a nerve extending from the brainstem down into your stomach and intestines, innervating your heart and lungs, and connecting your throat and facial muscles. When you breathe deeply this nerve is stimulated, sending a signal to your brain to relax. A 2010 study affirmed this connection. Only yesterday, Scientic American published an article on proper breathing bringing better health. Several other studies and articles affirm what yogis and other Eastern cultures have known and practiced for years: that breath is life.
You’ve probably guessed it by now – simply breathing the way you probably are right now isn’t enough. In order to understand what deep breathing means, I invite you to bring to mind the image of a baby doing it. Does it lift its shoulders and chest when it's inhaling? Or does its belly go up and down like a balloon? This is how we were all born to breathe. But stress and everyday life has made us become shallow or chest breathers.
The good news is that you can re-learn deep breathing. All my clients have witnessed tremendous benefits by dedicating a few moments of their day to do it. Here are some tips:
Think of your posture. Sitting up straight allows the lungs to expand efficiently with every breath. If you are sitting at your desk and feel foggy or uninspired, take a moment to reposition your body with a straight back. You should notice an immediate improvement at how well oxygen is reaching your bloodstream and therefore your brain.
Imagine your belly slowly going out as you inhale and your belly button pushing back as you breathe out, keeping your shoulders relaxed. Don’t force it. If it doesn’t come natural to you, you can try this lying down at first. Put one hand on your belly and the other one on your chest. The hand that’s on the belly should be the one rising first. If the breath is very deep, the chest will rise too towards the end.
Focus on the outbreath. While many people focus on completely inhaling in order to improve their breathing, most people only exhale 70 percent of their lung capacity. Try, instead to push all of the air out of your lungs. Your body will reward you with instant energy and your mind will reward you with a sense of relaxation.
Try it next time you feel overwhelmed – or not. You don't have to wait until a stressful moment arises. The more you practice, the more you become resilient to stress.
Lifestyle changes don’t have to be complicated, expensive, or time-consuming!
This website is for information purposes only. By providing the information contained herein we are not diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before beginning any type of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.