Reduce stress with breath work
In my private practice as well as for my personal wellbeing, I confidently support breathing to manage stress in both immediate and long-term triggers.
Here are a few techniques I often recommend as part of a wellness practice:
But first, just HOW do we breathe? Inhale, exhale, repeat. Easy enough, but did you know the WAY we breathe influences how our bodies respond to stress? For instance, in immediate danger, our heart rate quickens and we take short quick breaths; in calm and peaceful situations our breaths are deeper and slower. By mindfully altering the way we breathe, we can control our responses to situations, and therefore grounding ourselves and increasing our resilience to stress.
Let’s try an experiment together:
Start by sitting or laying down comfortably with your eyes closed (after you finish reading the post of course). Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Now take a deep breath. Which hand moves more?
If you said “the belly hand” – that’s great! You are a belly breather and you may pass Go and collect $200! Or just skip ahead to the tips; and the $200? Think of it like breathing is the currency for the body – the slower and deeper, the richer you are! (Super cheesy, but also super insightful. Pat on the back for me)
If you said “the chest hand” – at least you’re breathing (which is also great!) In order to take a deep, nourishing breath, we must create enough space for our lungs to expand. When this happens our diaphragm (a muscle used to facilitate breathing) pushes our guts downwards (thereby pushing our belly outwards) in order to create the most space available for our lungs to inhale. Think of it like blowing up a balloon. In order to collect the most air, there needs to be room for the balloon to expand.
How do I belly breathe?! Intention, focus, awareness. Allow your shoulders to drop and relax while you focus on filling your belly with air.
Belly breathing that is slow and rhythmic tells the brain that there is no immediate danger because the breathing is now slow, the rest of the body is then able to relax.
Here are some techniques you can try right now!
- 7-4-8 breathing
Start by inhaling through your nostrils for 7 seconds, pausing for 4 seconds, and exhaling for 8 slow seconds. Repeat. Longer exhales represent mindfully letting go of what does not serve our greater purpose in order to create space for new things that do serve us
2. Sweet 16 breaths
Like the 7-4-8 breathing, yet all stages of the breathing are the same number of seconds. Inhale through your nostrils for 4 seconds. Pause for 4 seconds. Exhale via pursed lips for 4 seconds. Pause for 4 seconds. Repeat.
Continue a daily mindful breathing practice for at least 2-3 times in a day and notice how your ability to handle life’s stressors improve!
What are your favourite techniques? Comment below to let us know!