Who isn’t stressed with what is going on in the world right now – and we have all our own personal challenges to deal with as well.
So it’s become even more important to take time out to specifically help your body and mind to relax even if it is only 10 minutes a day. Find this time and it will pay handsomely in terms of increased efficiency and productivity during the rest of your day.
There are many ways of going about this but having a simple breathing process to follow can be very helpful.
Why breathing? Well, when you are stressed or anxious it affects your breathing – your breathing becomes shallow and you might even feel tight in your chest. You also breathe more rapidly. Some people really have trouble breathing when they are anxious and end up hyperventilating which means not getting enough oxygen and blowing out too much carbon dioxide. That can then lead to light-headedness and a feeling of pressure in the chest and not getting enough air which in turn leads to more fear and panic – which then makes it even harder to control the breathing.
So it’s really important to break this loop and breathing practices can really help this and have a profoundly calming effect. Focussing on the breath is also the best known way of keeping the mind in the present moment in the body, instead of being off on those stress provoking thoughts. When the mind is more relaxed the body also relaxes and vice versa. This is a great feedback loop to get into instead!
As long as you are alive your breathing is always with you – and it’s an incredibly powerful ally in learning to relax and be present because tuning into it brings you right into the here and now, anchoring you into the fundamental, rhythmic flow of life.
I’m going to give you three very simple breathing practices – try them one at a time, perhaps on different days – you might find they all fit well or that one in particular helps you to feel calmer and more relaxed.
You can do all the practices sitting up or lying down. I often like to lie down when I’m doing the first two breathing practices at home because then my whole body is supported by the floor or bed and can relax fully.
When you breathe it is important to breathe right down into your abdomen so it sticks out when you breathe in. We often do it the other way around so you might have to practice for a while. It’s easiest to get this right lying down because then the rest of your body can’t compensate. Put your hands on your belly so your fingers touch. When you breathe in, your fingers should move apart.
Here we go:
Breathing Practice No. 1
This one is great to do in bed before you get up or at night before you go to sleep.
- Take a breath in while counting to 4
- Hold that breath for 16 counts
- Breathe out to the count of 8
- Do a round of 10 breaths (or keep going for as long as you wish)
- You can vary the speed of counting so you don’t get out of breath. You may find that as you practice you can count more slowly and hold for longer.
Breathing Practice No. 2
This one is good when you have lots of thoughts racing round your head.
- Count each breath backwards from 27 as you breathe
- As you breathe in silently say to yourself “I’m breathing in 27”
- As you breathe out say “I’m breathing out 27”
- Continue counting in this way – ”I’m breathing in 26, I’m breathing out 26”
- Bring the whole of your focus to the breath and the counting
- If your mind drifts off, bring it back to whatever number you were on. If you can’t remember just go back and start at 27.
- You can stop when you like. If you wish, keep going till you have reached the number one, and if you want to keep going for longer you can start again at 27.
Breathing Practice No. 3
This is a really useful little practice because it can be done at any time, wherever you are. I remember doing this many years ago at college on the way to exams.
- With each breath imagine that you are breathing in what you want and breathing out what you don’t want.
- For instance, you may silently say to yourself:“I’m breathing out fear, I’m breathing in calm”
“I’m breathing out anxiety, I’m breathing in confidence”