During stressful situations we rarely stop to think about what is happening within
our bodies. Indeed, the pressures of the moment keep our minds occupied on almost
everything but our physiological functions. Consequently those functions often become
irregular, leaving us in an unhealthy state of being. When we are in this state
we have fewer chances to succeed in whatever we try to accomplish.
Among the many physiological functions adversely affected by stress is our breathing.
Even when stress is minimal few people retain a habit of natural, full breathing
which is required for maintaining a good mental and physical state. Proper breathing
is essential for sustaining life and cleansing inner body systems. By learning proper
breathing techniques stressful situations may be handled better and overall mental
and physical health will be improved.
BREATHING: THE IMPORTANCE OF OXYGEN
Oxygen plays a vital role in the circulatory and respiratory systems. As we breathe,
oxygen that is inhaled purifies our blood by removing poisonous waste products circulating
throughout our blood systems. Irregular breathing will hamper this purification
process and cause waste products to remain in circulation. Digestion will then become
irregular, leaving tissues and organs undernourished. Improper oxygen consumption
will thus ultimately lead to fatigue and heightened anxiety states. The irregular
breathing elicited during stressful situations not only make them hard to cope with
but also contribute to a general deterioration of health. By the careful control
of our breathing pattern, we may not only rejuvenate our systems but counter the
unhealthy effects of stress.
Breathing methods are useful to settle the body and mind and induce a heightened
sense of awareness. Breathing exercises have been practiced for thousands of years
in the East. The West began studying the effectiveness and importance of them several
years ago. By this time, sufficient research has taken place in the West to verify
the usefulness of these techniques.
The following breathing methods can be helpful for reducing anger, anxiety,
depression, fatigue, irritability, muscular tension
While breathing is a function most people take for granted, rarely is it practiced
in a proper fashion. Before beginning any technique it is essential that you learn
how to breathe properly and fully:
- Lie down on a rug or blanket on the floor with your legs straight and slightly
apart, your toes pointed comfortably outwards, arms at your sides not touching
your body, your palms up, and your eyes closed. This is called a "relaxed body"
position. Take time to relax your body and breathe freely.
- It is best to breathe through your nose, as the tiny hairs and mucous membranes
filter out dust and toxins from the inhaled air. Keep your mouth closed as you
- As you breathe, your chest and abdomen should move together. If only the
chest seems to rise and fall, your breathing is shallow and you are not making
good use of the lower part of your lungs. As you inhale you should feel your
abdomen rising; it is as if your stomach is filling with air. As you exhale,
the abdomen comes back in, like a balloon releasing all of its air. This inhale
and exhale process should continue comfortably and smoothly. The chest and abdomen
should rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. The chest should move only
DEEP, RELAXED BREATHING
Although this exercise can be practiced in a variety of poses, the following
is recommended for beginners:
- Lie down on a blanket or rug on the floor. Bend your knees and move your
feet about eight inches apart, with your toes turned outward slightly. Make
sure your spine is straight.
- Place one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest.
- Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose into your abdomen to push up
your hand as much as feels comfortable. Your chest should move only a little
and only with your abdomen.
- Continue step three until it becomes rhythmic and comfortable. Now smile
slightly, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, making a quiet,
breezy sound as you gently blow out. Your mouth, tongue and jaw will be relaxed.
Take long, slow, deep breaths raising and lowering your abdomen. Hear the sound
and feel the texture of breathing as you become more and more relaxed.
- When you first begin this technique, do it for five minutes. When you become
more comfortable with it, you may extend it up to 20 minutes.
- Upon ending a session, stay still for a few minutes and try to keep the
entire body relaxed.
- The purpose of this technique is to develop a good, relaxing breathing method.
It may be practiced anytime, especially during stressful situations.
Sighing and yawning during the day are signs that you are not getting enough
oxygen. A sigh releases a bit of tension and can be practiced at will as a means
- Sit or stand up straight.
- Sigh deeply, letting out a sound of deep relief as the air rushes out of
- Let new air come in naturally.
- Repeat this procedure eight to twelve times whenever you feel the need for
it, and experience the feeling of relaxation.
This exercise will stimulate your breathing, circulation and nervous system.
- Stand up straight, hands at your sides.
- Inhale and hold a complete natural breath as described above.
- Raise your arms out in front of you, keeping them up and relaxed.
- Gradually bring your hands to your shoulders. As you do, slowly contract
your hands into fists so that when they reach your shoulders they are clenched
as tight as possible.
- Keep the fists tense as you push your arms out straight again very slowly.
- Pull your arms back to your shoulders and straighten them out, fists tense,
as fast as you can, several times.
This exercise combines the relaxing benefits of deep, relaxed breathing with
the curative value of positive auto-suggestions.
- Lie down on a rug or blanket on the floor in a "relaxed body" pose.
- Place your hands gently on your solar plexus (that point where your ribs
start to separate above your abdomen) and practice deep, relaxed breathing for
a few minutes.
- Imagine that, with each incoming breath of air, energy is rushing into your
lungs and being immediately stored in your solar plexus. Imagine that as you
exhale, this energy is flowing out to all parts of your body. Form a mental
picture of this energizing process.
- Continue on a daily basis for at least five to ten minutes a day.
The following exercise requires a partner and is effective in relaxing and energizing
- Lie on your back. Have your partner put one hand on your abdomen and one
hand on your chest.
- Inhale and exhale as in deep, relaxed breathing, but each inhale is taken
in two stages abdomen, then chest. Imagine that you are breathing into your
partner's hand as you fill your belly with air. When your abdomen feels full,
continue breathing into your chest. Watch your partner's hands as it rises.
- Exhale fully through the chest and belly simultaneously.
- Repeat. It is important to keep a rhythmic rolling effect between abdomen
and chest. Breathe at your natural pace, however.
-- Any of the above techniques can and should be practiced everyday. Being a
natural preventive measure for stress, there are very few side effects. It will
take some time before you observe any profound changes within your body and mind
taking place, but practice diligently and patiently. You will eventually realize
that you have more energy and are much more relaxed.