Breathing exercises have been found to be effective in reducing generalized anxiety, stress, muscle tension and mood disorders.
Preparation 1. Prepare for breath exercises by laying down flat on the floor. Don’t cross your legs or arms. Either have your feet straight down shoulder width apart, or bent in a comfortable position with feet flat on the floor. Observe your breath without judgment. Notice how it feels to breathe in and out.
2. Diaphragmatic Breathing. Use this to slow and deepen your breaths.
a. Breathe into your diaphragm, noticing how your abdomen rises and falls with each breath. Forcefully exhale all the air from your lungs. This will create a vacuum that will pull a deep breath into your abdomen. b. Push down on your abdomen and allow your belly to push back. c. Place one hand on your belly and the other underneath your back. Imagine your belly is a balloon that you are filling with air. Expand front to back. d. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Expand bottom to top of your lungs. Feel the breath down into your toes and up into your head. Expand again bottom to top. e. Place one hand on each side. Expand left and right. f. Special considerations if you have asthma or other breathing difficulties. If you start to feel nausea, blurry, dizzy, pain, or other ill effects, stop and return to a normal breathing pattern.
Breathing for Tension Relief
b. Breathe in saying to yourself “breathe in”. Notice the parts of your body that tense up as you inhale.
c. Hold your breath for a moment. Feel the tension rising. You may feel a jittery, tingling, pounding, energetic, or uncomfortable sensation as the tension increases.
d. Breathe out saying “relax”. Notice how the tension releases as you exhale.
e. Repeat 3x. Return to a normal breathing pattern for at least 5 breaths to avoid hypo- ventilation. Breathe deeply again. Continue this pattern until you feel at ease.
f. If thoughts, feelings, or sensations catch your attention, observe them without judgment, but don’t engage in them. Return your focus to your breathing.
g. To increase the tension release: breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth creating a hiss as you exhale. Or, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth as if you are exhaling through a straw. Focus on the sound.
h. Inhale deeply and exhale even deeper, expelling all the air from your lungs. It is the exhale that brings you into a more relaxed state, not the inhale.
Mindfull Breath Counting
a. Preparation b. Count each exhalation to yourself. When you reach the fifth count- start over. c. If thoughts, feelings, or sensations catch your attention, observe them without judgment, but don’t engage in them. Return your focus to your breathing. If you want, you can label each as they come up “thought”, “sensation”, “feeling”. The purpose of labeling is to increase your objectivity and emotional distance from potentially charged material. d. If your mind goes blank. Notice and return your focus to your breath. e. Practice counting breaths for 10 minutes or until you feel relaxed.
Lung Capacity Training
a. Preparation. b. Breathe in slowly while counting to 5. c. Hold your breath for 5 counts. d. Exhale for 5 counts. Keep the air exhaling. Don’t expel all your air in a burst and then hold empty lungs while you keep counting. Exhale slowly. e. Hold empty lungs for 5 counts. f. Pause if you need to. Let your breathing return to a normal pattern to prevent hyper or hypo -ventilation. g. When ready, repeat deep breathing. Increase the count from 5 to 10. h. If you have trouble, try keeping the “full lung holding”, and “empty lung holding” to a low count (2-5 beats) while you increase the inhale and exhale count. i. With practice, you can increase the count up to 60 or more.
Alternate Breathing. This is particular useful for people with sinus and tension headaches.
a. Sit in a comfortable position with good posture. b. Rest the index and second finger of your right hand on your forehead c. Close your right nostril with your thumb. d. Breathe in through the left nostril e. Remove thumb, and close left nostril with ring finger. f. Breathe out through right nostril. g. Breathe in through right nostril h. Remove ring finger. Close right with thumb. i. Breathe out through left. j. Keep alternating through five cycles. Raise the number of cycles as you practice
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