Two Easy Breathing Exercises to Increase Calmness
Your breath is your direct connection from your inside to the world outside. Air is free and abundant, and the conscious regulation of your breathing is like an instruction manual to your brain to produce or not produce neurotransmitters which go out to your whole body.
Wow, that was a mouthful!
Basically, the way you breathe affects the way you feel.
The bad news is that most people aren't aware of this, and become unwilling participants in cycles and spirals of a combination of outer experiences and inner processing.
The good news is that you can change this starting right now.
Survival breathing is automatic and shallow. If you imagine you were in the woods and you spotted a big, hungry bear, you'd likely freeze and stifle your breathing so that he or she wouldn't hear you and turn you into lunch. That's why it's a great automatic survival mechanism for active threats.
But if you're scrolling through your Facebook and you see a post that feels threatening, your breathing will do the same thing. That doesn't protect you one bit, but what that shallow breathing also does is tell your brain, "hey, we've got a threat here, time to activate." From increasing your blood pressure and heart rate, to later slowing your metabolism and making you tired, in case the stress threat is a lack of food and your body attempts to conserve your energy, these built-in mechanisms are life saving in actual times of primal threat, but can really run you down in today's world.
Two incredibly easy methods to intercept these survival modes are:
1. Relief Breath
Do you know when you're tense about something, say a car coming a little too close, and then when it passes safely you exhale a sigh of relief?
That exhale happens naturally and signals your mind and body not to go into survival mode. If you are living in a heightened state of stress, you don't actually have to wait until it all passes before you can breathe that sigh of relief.
Try one now.
By doing so consciously, you are telling your subconscious and your entire body that everything is ok. And even if it's not yet currently in reality, doing this will help you to stay grounded, with a clear mind that is able to respond rather than react or panic.
Do it often.
2. The Long Exhale
In any ancient art, like Tai Chi or Yoga, a variation of this is present. As explained in a wonderful article by Dr. Arielle Schwartz, the long exhale serves to regulate the Vagus Nerve in our bodies. This nerve is responsible for an incredible amount of feedback to and from our brain, and controls moods, reactions, and overall panic or peace of mind.
The long exhale instructs the brain to release Acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that essentially tells your brain everything is alright.
Some Yogis say to inhale to a count of 10 and long exhale to a count of 20, but most lungs new to this would not be able to do that.
Personally, I do inhale to a count of 3 and exhale to a count of 5. I do this multiple times per day, throughout my whole morning walk with my dogs, and before I fall asleep at night. On the exhale, I picture the last count as my lungs wringing out at their bottoms, and even compress my ribs some. For me, when I do this in bed, it's almost become a signal or a habit to my brain that this is what we do when we go to sleep, and I fall asleep shortly after doing it.
Inhale through your diaphragm, so that your stomach area expands, not your chest. When you exhale, feel your shoulders and neck and allow them to relax on each exhale.
If you feel like you'd like to do deeper breaths, go for it. Just make sure the exhales are around twice as long as the inhale to get the same effect.
If you're having a lot of stress in your current life, add one or both of these to things you do multiple times per day, like every time you go to the fridge or bathroom, or if you drive a lot, every time you are at a stop sign or red light. This will bring them into your daily habits and will have such a big impact on your baseline mood. So simple, free, and available to you in every moment. What a gift!
p.s. If you're interested in breathwork, meditation, chakras, yoga, and Ayurveda, I highly recommend The Ayurveda Experience e-course. You can preview, read more about it, and purchase it here:
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