Mindful Breathing for Stress Reduction
Stress Reduction Techniques – Mindful Breathing to Relax
Why should you, an experienced breather, invest your limited time, money, and energy in the study of mindful breathing? The movement of your breath, thus far, seems to have been as dependable, as automatic, as the arc of the sun and the flow of the tides. You have been free to deal with more vexing problems-unclog the sink, balance the checkbook, take the cat to be neutered, wrestle with the crabgrass. Why tamper with a process that isn’t demanding your attention?
Your breath is your life. Without it, your brain, your heart, your fingers and toes, your dreams, all that is physically and mentally you, would fade away in about the length of time it takes to eat an ice cream cone.
Reducing Stress. The good news is that you already breathe beautifully WHEN YOU SLEEP. You take in the most oxygen while investing the least amount of work to get it. Your deep quiet natural breathing during sleep clears your mind, scrubs your lungs and relaxes all the exhausted daytime muscles of vision and voice. You don’t have to enroll in a college course or read a complicated manual or take expensive lessons. Some part of your mind already knows how to do this.
Notice how the rhythm and placement of the air changes as you watch someone drifting off to sleep. You know precisely when that person is asleep by the fact that their breathing is more audible and that you can see their belly expand with each inhalation.
Mother Nature takes control of your breathing when you sleep, allowing for maximum rehabilitation of your mind and body. Sleep deprivation is one of the most effective (and therefore unforgivable) ways to break a person’s body and spirit. Part of that destruction is the interference with Nature’s plan to refresh you with eight hours of efficient and effective breathing in each 24-hour period.
As your day progresses and the challenges hit you like a tsunami, it is understandable that the tension mounts. Rising tension begins to interfere with your posture, your breathing, your circulation and your concentration. Our species has an amazing ability to adapt but evolution moves forward in slow deliberate steps and it will take many thousands of years before we are able to deal naturally with computer screens, artificial light, chairs (even ergonomically correct ones), air conditioning and endless hours at a desk without paying a terrible price.
You cannot wait for evolution to catch up with the demands dumped on you today.
The next time your day turns really nasty, borrow from Mother Nature’s nighttime plan:
1. Sit with your weight evenly distributed along the backs of your thighs (tailbone off the chair). Close your eyes.
2. Relax your shoulders, your throat, and your tongue and jaw muscles.
3. Breathe out all the stale and used-up air.
4. Imagine that you have a small balloon behind your bellybutton. Fill it gently with each incoming breath. Your abdomen will swell as the breath comes in and flatten as you exhale.
Proper breathing is incredibly powerful. It is rather like re-booting your computer, giving you a fresh start in the middle of your hectic day.
About the Author:
Diane Neuman founded The Yoga Workshop in San Francisco where she taught for 11 years. Neuman wrote and illustrated How to get the dragons out of your temple: [relaxation through yoga] (Celestial Arts). Currently Neuman writes and illustrates a health blog that draws on her 50 years of studying yoga, advanced breathing techniques, stress management, stress reduction, mindful breathing and relaxation exercises.