I’m sure by now you’ve heard the phrase, “Just Breathe.” And you may be thinking, of course I’m breathing; if not, I wouldn’t be alive right now! But there is more to relaxation breathing than sucking air in and pushing it back out. Ask yourself, “Am I even noticing how shallow I’m actually breathing?” Did you know that shallow chest breathing is called, Thoracic breathing and abdominal breathing is called diaphragmatic breathing?
So what is this “Just Breathe” craze we’re in?
Relaxation breathing is an intentional act of breathing where we focus on calming the overactive emotional side of our brain by putting the brakes on the vagus nerve and correcting the overactive amygdala. People have been utilizing the art of deep breathing to relax themselves for thousands of years. This fact can be seen in ancient yoga and Qigong practices where deep breathing was utilized to create stabilization and wellness. We’ve learned so much about the brain and the fight or flight stress response in modern times and how breathing can calm. Tibetan Buddhist monks have used deep breathing and visualization for centuries to induce a deep state of medication and relaxation.
It’s amazing that in the past ten years we’ve actually begun to realize this easily learned technique can be carried with us wherever we go and utilized immediately to help calm and relaxed the overactive left brain.
Relaxation Breathing Can Be Learned
Have no fear about relaxation and breathing; you’re not being brainwashed or emptying the mind of all your senses, but only your fears, worries, and should of, could of, and would of’s. During relaxation sessions, we can meditate on our faith and allow joy and peace to enter in with every breath. Exhaling out all the negativity and angst. Deliberate deep breathing is a learned discipline that can teach us to be still and notice. In this quiet time of waiting are wonderful moments to implement greater self-care.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7; ESV).
Remember, it takes self-control to take your mind captive, to breathe, and concentrate on Him.
There are several deep breathing exercises that are quite useful when the fight/flight response kicks in and calls in the SWAT Team, when only a security guard or teacher is needed.
· Deep Diaphragmatic breathing
· Focusing on your breath
· Book Breathing
· Nostril Breathing
· Healthy Breathing
Deep diaphragmatic breathing
Get into a comfortable position with your feet flat on the floor until this type of breathing becomes second nature, and then do this deep breathing anytime and anywhere, whether you are stressed or not.
Breathe in through your nose for 7-8 seconds while pushing your abdomen outward, then hold for 4 seconds. Then purse your lips and barely let the air out through your mouth for 8 seconds, and all the while you are exhaling try to relax your body intentionally from head to toes, and then relax your body even further before you take in another breath.
Focusing on your breath
By focusing completely on your breath, you ignore without effort the noise and confusion around you and feel your body begin to relax. Take in deep belly breaths through your nose and give your attention to your breathing and notice your body. This can be a wonderful time to meditate on the blessings God has given you and what the throne room looks like. Imagine yourself sitting in His presence. Let your breath escape in whatever manner that is comfortable and notice what it sounds like, feels like, and what your body is doing while you exhale. Be intentional while exhaling slowly. Notice your muscles letting go.
Utilize all the techniques from deep diaphragmatic breathing but lie down flat on your back with a book on your belly. As you breathe in through your nose, your belly should be expanding and lifting the book toward the ceiling (push your belly out as you breathe in). Hold 4 seconds. Then let the book fall slowly as you exhale 8 seconds through pursed lips. This will feel strange for a while until you get used to it.
Close one nostril with one finger and breathe in while keeping your eyes closed, then pinch both nostrils closed for 3-4 seconds and hold, then open the opposite nostril and exhale for 7-8 seconds and repeat. Making sure only one nostril is open on the inhale and the opposite nostril is open on the exhale. Notice your body and make sure on each exhale that you intentionally relax your body. If this is a struggle, try utilizing less seconds for inhale and exhale. Be comfortable.
This type of breathing helps calm and clear the lungs while also improving lung function. Losing some of our lung function as we age is normal but exercising the lungs can help improve your lung capacity (this is the amount of air our lungs can hold). According to The Lung Institute, this ability reduces with age. You’ve probably heard older folks complain that they struggle to breathe deeply and hold their breath. Practice so that you can build strength which allows your lungs to breathe deeply and hold the air in longer before you release.
Lung Health points out that when we can’t breathe deeply, we intake less oxygen and our heart has to work harder to push oxygen through the body. To practice this type of breathing, breathe in deeply through your nose while pushing the abdomen out. Hold for 4 seconds and cough during your exhale. This clears the lungs and will help increase your total lung capacity (TLC). Also, sit down with feet flat and exhale all the air out of your lungs and hold your empty lungs for 5-20 seconds (whatever is comfortable), then slowly inhale as deeply as you can. You can also lift your hands over your head if this is comfortable as you inhale. Then repeat two more times.
Take time to be still and breathe correctly, and calm your anxious soul, dear friend.
Psalm 62:5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Lori Carol Maloy