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Breathing exercises for stress relief are such a simple thing to do when you are feeling stressed.
It is so simple that it is FREE.
And yet, most of us have forgotten how to breathe, or at least how to breathe properly. In fact, the average person only uses approximately 20% of their lung capacity.
You may not even know it, but if you are feeling any kind of stress, your body is likely breathing very shallowly. Shallow breathing is one of the early signs of stress and creates a mini hyperventilation state in our body that can lead to conditions like anxiety and an increased stress response.
Although breath is an automatic body response that is controlled by the respiratory center of the brain, we can override our breathing rate by consciously controlling it.
And the good news is that even if we have learned terrible breathing habits, we can re-learn to breathe.
The Goal: To breathe like a baby! If you get a chance, just observe a baby's belly rising and falling with each breath. Babies do not know what shallow breathing is, they automatically know how to breathe with their belly. Technically, this is called diaphragmatic breathing.
Stress actually makes us forget, literally.
I will discuss more about this in the section of the website called Brain Fitness, but for now, just know that stress decreases our ability to think clearly and little by little, stress also constricts our lung capacity to a point where we are hardly breathing at all.
What are the benefits of breathing exercises for stress relief?
In short, you get to live longer!
A famous study called the Framingham study, followed thousands of individuals over a 30 year period. What they found was that the most significant factor in peak health and long life is how well you breathe!
The art of consciously affecting and controlling our breath is known as pranayama yoga and it can be very effective for a number of conditions.
Since we know that 80-90% of all disease processes are linked to stress, here is a list of conditions that breath awareness modification has been shown to benefit:
This particular exercise is very effective and is known as 'Square Breathing'.
It is called square breathing because you create a box with your breath in this way:
The square breath is meant to balance and cleanse your entire nervous system by inhaling and exhaling in equal proportions.
As you get better and your lung capacity expands, you can increase the number of seconds from 4 to 5 to 6 and so forth.
Ideally, you would be able to increase the seconds all the way to 15 seconds for each section of the square, such that it takes you 1 minute to create the entire box.
Breathing exercises for stress relief will only work if you make a habit of practicing.
When I was in private practice and I'd give a patient some breath-work for homework, I knew immediately when they were doing it, because it relieves so much body tension and helps to balance the human energy system so quickly.
Breath-work is free and you have all the equipment you will need (your lungs plus an abundant supply of air), so there are no excuses for not doing it.
Find a regular time of the day to practice, even if it is while you are stopped at a stoplight.
What ever it takes, JUST DO IT!
I don't give orders very often, but when it comes to breath, this is critical stuff.
With time, these skills will become your normal breathing rate and you will find that you are adding years to your life and life to your years!
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