The Power of Deep Breathing: Relaxation Techniques You Can Use Anytime
By Barbara Wood
Thirty years ago, while watching the PBS program, “Lilias, Yoga, and You,” Barbara Wood learned the power of deep breathing and relaxation techniques. In this article, she shares her tips on how to get started with this practice and how it has helped her manage stress, anxiety, and even sleep better.
Benefits of Deep Breathing and Relaxation Techniques:
Before we dive into the steps to practice deep breathing, it’s essential to understand how it can benefit our physical health and mental well-being. Here are some benefits of incorporating deep breathing and relaxation techniques into your daily routine:
1. Reduces stress and anxiety: According to the American Institute of Stress, deep breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows down your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and relaxes your muscles. As a result, it can help reduce stress, anxiety, and tension.
2. Improves sleep quality: Deep breathing can help calm your mind and body, and make it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
3. Increases energy levels: By increasing the oxygen flow in your body, deep breathing can improve your overall sense of well-being and increase your energy levels.
Steps to Practice Deep Breathing and Relaxation Techniques:
Now that we know the benefits of deep breathing, let’s dive into the steps to practice this technique.
Step 1: Find a comfortable sitting position
Find a quiet place where you can sit in a comfortable position, either on the floor or in a chair. Make sure your back is straight, and your head is aligned with your spine.
Step 2: Focus on your breath
Take a few moments to focus on your breath. Breathe in and out naturally and observe how your body feels. Notice the sensations in your chest, belly, and nose.
Step 3: Inhale slowly to the count of four
Inhale slowly through your nose, and count to four. Imagine your lungs filling up from your belly to your collarbones. Hold your breath for a split second at the top of the inhale.
Step 4: Exhale slowly to the count of four
Exhale slowly through your mouth or nose, and count to four. Let the air out from your collarbone back down to your belly, and squeeze your abs a bit to make sure all the air is out. If this is easy for you, you can extend the exhale to the count of six or even eight.
Step 5: Pay attention to how you feel
After you’ve taken a few deep breaths, pay attention to how you feel. Look for pockets of tension in your muscles. If you sense tension in your shoulders, make a conscious effort to let them drop. Pay attention to the muscles of your face and tell them to relax as well.
Step 6: Practice progressive relaxation
Lilias used to teach a wonderful technique of breathing in energy and breathing out tension. She would then guide us through a sequence of progressive relaxation, starting with the feet and working muscle by muscle up the body. Learning to do this can make it easier to fall asleep and help a person be able to tell when they are tensing up somewhere in the body.
Deep breathing and relaxation techniques are simple, yet powerful tools that you can use anytime to manage stress and improve your overall sense of well-being. By taking a few deep breaths and paying attention to your body, you can reduce tension and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and increase energy levels. Practice these techniques every day, and you’ll soon feel the benefits of this practice.