I know, I know you breathe every single moment of every single day. But, is your breath intentional or is it just survival? See you can actually have control of your breath and use it to your advantage.
Did you know that your breath is tied to your heart rate and your heart rate is tied to whether or not you start pumping adrenaline? Why is that important? When adrenaline begins to pump our pre-frontal cortex will go ‘off line’ and we can’t really think through things very well. It does this because if you were actually being chased by a bear you wouldn’t want to stop and make a ‘rational’ decision….you would want to just RUN! So…when our thinking brain is offline that is when we say and do things we wish we wouldn’t have said and done. That is also where anxiety lives!
This gets even better….if you can control your breath, you control your heart rate and you control adrenaline that means you can keep your thinking brain online and control your stress and anxiety! There is a slight catch though. You have to do breathing for about 5-7 minutes for your body to know it can chill out and not produce the adrenaline. Also the exhale is the most important part of your breath as the exhale lowers the heart rate while the inhale increase the heart rate. Coolio, right?!
Maybe you aren’t as pumped about this information as I am, but I’m hopeful that you will soon get there too! Imagine your life changed just because you learned to breathe correctly before and during times of stress and anxiety. Imagine being able to change your kid’s lives because you taught them this totally sweet tool! Are you in yet?
Our bodies are massively complicated and all of our systems are connected. But this one simple method of breathing can actually help you change your anxiety and stress level. Now…make sure you practice this when you don’t need it, a lot. Why? Have you ever showed up to a competition without practicing first? Of course you wouldn’t! This is no different. You can’t show up to a stressful time or an anxiety attack and use breathing for the very first time. It won’t work and you will abandon it. So, instead, get to practicing it a lot. Use it on the hour every hour. Use it at a stop light or when you pull in the driveway. You get this drift…sneak in breathing throughout the day…your nervous system will thank you for it.
Here is the down and dirty simple breathing technique that will work every time, if you let it!
First of all, please find a comfortable place to sit or to even lay flat on the floor or on your bed. Go ahead, find that place. When you’re there, what we’re going to do is to put one hand on our chest and one hand on our stomach. When you take a big, deep breath in, I want you to envision that you’re filling your entire chest cavity up like a giant balloon, but you’re going to fill it from the bottom to the top. So your stomach area should raise up and then your chest. Let’s give that a try. Breathe in deep filling from the bottom and exhale out.
Now, on the exhale, one thing to make sure that you do is to purse your lips together, kind of like blowing up a balloon and when you’re letting the air out, instead of letting the whole balloon full of air go out, you’re going to open up the neck of the balloon by putting your two fingers together and pulling it apart, so it’s much more controlled. Your lips are going to be pursed together as you exhale. So one hand on your stomach, one hand on your chest, inhale from the bottom to the top and do a controlled exhale with pursed lips.
If you’re doing this with your child, you can put a stuffed animal on your tummies and watch the stuffed animal raise up and down. It’s kind of fun and it’s a good way to teach mindfulness and breathing to a child.
Let’s start with the meditator’s breath. The meditator’s breath is a really good breath to use when you’re feeling anxious or stressed out. What it is, is taking a big deep breath to the count of four and then and exhale to the count of eight. The exhale is the most important part of your breath, as it lowers your heart rate. A low heart rate won’t allow you to get into fight or flight.
So if you’re stressed or anxious, make sure that you exhale long and slow. Let’s give it a try. Breathe in, 2, 3, 4. Out, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. In, 2, 3, 4. Out, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. In, 2, 3, 4. Out, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Awesome.
You would do that for about five to seven minutes. It takes five to seven minutes for your body to understand that it’s okay to fully relax and that a saber tooth tiger is not chasing it. If you have trouble counting, you can easily pull up an app on your phone or something called a metronome, there are metronome apps that will actually do the counting for you.
Another breath exercise that I like is called square breathing and what you do in square breathing is you breathe in and you hold and you exhale and you hold. Envision a box…you will breathe up the left side of the box, hold across the top of the box, exhale down the right side of the box and hold across the bottom of the box (like a square).
This is a really good one if you’re really feeling stressed out and you need kind of a heavy reset. So let’s try that one. Breathe in, 2, 3, 4. Hold, 2, 3, 4. Exhale, 2, 3, 4. Hold, 2, 3, 4. Breathe in, 2, 3, 4. Hold 2, 3, 4. Exhale, 2, 3, 4. Hold, 2, 3, 4.
You can use this one in conjunction with the meditator’s breath, doing square breathing first and then sliding right into the meditator’s breath.
All right. I hope you find this helpful and remember to keep breathing!