When we are stressed, we often take short shallow breaths where our shoulders rise and fall. Our chest may feel like a weight is bearing down on it making it difficult to breathe. When our body becomes restricted like this our thoughts and actions are affected too. Our concentration and focus become clouded and we are often quick to react, which then later results in regret or recourse. Taking time to slow our mind and body down can lead to better outcomes and productivity. Slow, deep, diaphragmatic breaths are important in regulating out body’s response to stress. It helps increase circulation, loosens muscles, and cleanses the body.
Diaphragmatic breathing uses the diaphragm muscle which is located under your ribs and above your stomach. You want to draw in as much air as possible forcing your diaphragm to expand. A good way to practice this technique is with your hands on your stomach so you can see your hands rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale breathes. At first it may be a bit uncomfortable because you are use to using your chest to take in the shallow breathes. You need to work on reconditioning your body to adapt to the deep breathing. Be patient and allow yourself to find a rhythm of breath that is comfortable for you as you practice this exercise.
Assume a comfortable, relaxed position with as much support as possible. Unfold your arms and legs. When you are ready, allow yourself to close your eyes and begin breathing in deeply through your nose. Then exhale through your mouth. When you inhale, allow your stomach to rise so the diaphragmatic area expands. As you exhale, allow your stomach to fall, pushing out all your tension. Continue breathing in deeply through your nose and exhaling through your mouth….Breath slowly, deeply, and evenly….Notice how you feel and enjoy the experience. Repeat.
Now, for the next several breaths focus only on the exhalation phase of your breathing cycle. Notice the warmth of the air as it leaves your mouth and r-e-l-a-x as you exhale. Come up with some positive mantra like, “my mind and body are calm and relaxed.” Repeat this to yourself as you exhale your breath. Again, this will facilitate the mind-body connection and also help you feel more in control of the rhythm of your breath versus your body dictating that. Repeat exercise several times.
Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth pushing out tension and tiredness.
Your breathing is a powerful tool, and very important in ANY relaxation technique you incorporate into your stress management regimen. Remember to take deep, slow breaths. Deep breathing is an excellent relaxation technique even when used on its own. It can be used as a short, quick technique as you are walking to class, or it can be used for an extended period of time.