Breathing & Relaxing

Overview

Practicing relaxation techniques such as focused breathing is a great way to become grounded and centered. Breathing techniques involve removing attention from turmoil in the mind, focusing on the breath and bringing awareness into the body. A greater sense of peace, relaxation and overall well-being may be experienced through the regular practice of focused breathing.

Benefits

According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises have many potential benefits to the body. Symptoms caused by stress can be relieved as heart rate and blood pressure are slowed. Blood flow to vital organs is increased; muscle tension releases and chronic pain may feel soothed. Concentration improves through deep and mindful breathing, and emotional turmoil created by feelings of anger or frustration may give way to inner stillness.

Yoga Breathing: Pranayama

Pranayama or yoga breathing is known as “the science of breath control.” Pranayama is intended to prepare yoga practitioners for yoga poses and calm the mind for meditation. Pranayama practice is believed to draw life force into the body and deliver vital oxygen to the organs. In pranayama, the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is attained. Breathing is viewed as a sacred act in which mind, body and spirit become linked. Holistic physician and author Andrew Weil recognizes the benefits of pranayama and recommends three breathing exercises adopted from yoga to center the mind and relax the body.

The 4-7-8 Exercise

Also called the relaxing breath, the 4-7-8 exercise begins by placing the tip of the tongue against the ridge at the top of your front teeth. The inhale is taken through the nose and should take four counts. The breath is then held in for seven counts. The exhale is then expelled through the mouth, making a “whooshing” sound as the tongue is held in place. The exhale should take eight counts. This represents one cycle of this breathing exercise.

The Stimulating Breath

Also known as the bellows breath in yoga, the stimulating breath is used to increase alertness. The stimulating breath exercise involves inhaling and exhaling rapidly through the nose, with the mouth remaining closed. Dr. Weil recommends continuing this rapid breathing for 15 seconds at a time, with intervals of normal breathing in between.

Breath Counting

A technique used in Zen practice and recommended by Dr. Weil for relaxation is breath counting. As the spine is held straight and the head slightly forward, normal breaths should come without the attempt to control them in any way. On an exhale, think “one” to yourself. The inhale becomes two, and the next exhale is three and so on. After reaching five, start over at one. This exercise is intended to keep focus on the breath and awareness in the body.

About this Author

Pamela Gentry has been a full-time writer and title editor for Demand Studios for two years. Gentry also has current published work on: eHow, Associated Content, The Examiner, Helium and Your Healthy Day.Net.