May 30

Breathe slower, get calmer, stay focused

Over the centuries, healers from different parts of the world have taught that breathing holds great power to improve physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.

In recent times, researchers have discovered that these teachings have a scientific basis. For example mindfulness techniques, in which we follow the breath, paying attention to it without trying to change it in any way, have been shown to promote a sense of calm, increase focus, and enable better concentration. On a physical level, mindfulness practice actually makes changes in the circuitry of the brain.

There are also other helpful techniques that require us to take a more active part in the breathing process.

In their book, The Healing Power of the Breath, Dr. Richard P. Brown and Dr. Patricia L. Gerbarg offer some proven  methods to help us adjust our state of mind and fine-tune our stress response system. These methods can help us deal effectively with anxiety, worry, fatigue, irritability and other issues in a short amount of time.

First, however, we need to remember to breathe through our bellies.

Belly Breathing

Sit in a comfortable position and gently close your eyes.

Become aware of the breath moving in and out of your nostrils. Now, begin to notice the rise and fall of your belly and chest, as well as the expansive movement of your ribs with each inhalation and exhalation.

Try to keep your awareness on your belly, your lower abdomen.

Slow Breathing

Through their research and practice, Dr. Brown and Dr. Gerbarg have found that slowing down the breath using a technique called Coherent Breathing has many benefits for our heart, nervous system, lungs, stress response, energy level, mood, and ability to deal with everyday responsibilities. (Read more about the research in their book, or on their site:
haveahealthy mind).

Coherent Breathing

Breathe in and out through your nostrils. You may also breathe out through slightly opened lips if that is easier for you.

Keep your awareness on your belly as it rises and falls.

You are going to slow down your breath.Breathe in through your nose, to the count of one…two.

Breathe our to the count of one…two.

Repeat this two times.

Now breathe in one…two…three, and out one…two…three.

Repeat this three times.

Breathe in one…two…three…four, and out one…two…three…four.

Repeat this four times.

If it is difficult to breathe to the count of four, simply stay with two breaths in, two breaths out for awhile, and build to counting to three, then four. 

If possible, continue this practice for five minutes. You can extend the practice to up to twenty minutes.

You will find, over time, that Coherent Breathing becomes easier and easier, and you will experience a greater sense of calm and focus throughout the day. I use it frequently and I can testify to its being a really quick and effective method.

Use Coherent Breathing at any time to work with stress, anxiety, and fatigue.

The book The Healing Power of the Breath includes a CD with Coherent Breathing and other breath practices.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

~Thích Nht Hnh



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