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Healthly Breathing For Relaxation

May 31, 2008
With the power to heal our bodies, minds and souls, learning to breath efficiently is essential to well being. When used consciously, breathing releases toxins and stored emotions, creates a relaxation response and enhances intuition. Breathing dysfunctions, such as hyperventilation, shallow breathing and breath holding, creates pain and stress in all levels. However, like any other skill, healthy breathing can be learned, eliminating these dysfunctions.

Healthy breathing is controlled by the diaphragm, a concave muscle running along the base of the ribs. When we inhale, the diaphragm pushes our internal organs down and flattens out causing the abdominal region to rise. The exhalation happens automatically by impulse.

The first step to developing good breathing habits is awareness. Often when we 'try' to breath, we do so in our chests. I suggest you lie on your back. If you have back problems, place a pillow under your knees.

STEP ONE: Place your hands on your stomach, close your eyes and just notice. Don't try to take deep breaths yet.

STEP TWO: Once you feel the breath drop into your diaphragm, you should feel your hands rise up with the inhalation and down with the exhalation. Try to perceive the sensations you feel so you can duplicate the response at a later time.

STEP THREE: As you attune to the sensations, start to breath in more deeply. If you find the breath goes back up into the chest, repeat the process.

Once you are confident in diaphragmatic breathing, use the breath to consciously relax.

STEP ONE: Scan your body from head to toe, observing the areas of pain, discomfort and tension. Imagine deeply breathing into those areas and then releasing the pain upon exhalation. Continue to breathe into those areas and release until you feel less discomfort. I often imagine blowing out black smoke that gets eaten by a cloud of white light and floats away. Try to create several images for yourself and see what works better.

STEP TWO: Balance the exhale/inhale ratio by breathing in for 4 counts then exhaling for 4 counts. Try not to hold your breath between cycles, keeping it flowing continuously.

STEP THREE: Create a relaxation response by exhaling longer than the inhalation. So begin with breathing in for 4, exhaling for 6. Then inhaling for 4, exhaling for 8.

Once you feel relaxed, refreshed and ready to go, be sure to balance the breath (4 in, 4 out). If you stand up too quickly without balancing, you may experience dizziness.

Realistically, we don't go about our daily activities lying down. So once your 'floor' technique is solid, stand up or sit in a chair and see if you can still create the sensations of breathing deeply in the belly. The majority of people have difficulty breathing deeply when erect. Here are various strategies. Test out which method works best for you.

CIRCLE BREATHING: as you inhale slowly, imagine a line of white light traveling from your tail bone, up your spine to the crown of your head. As you exhale, see that line travel in front of your body, down and around back to the tail bone.

THIRDS: Imagine your lungs are split into thirds - bottom, middle and top. Fill each third sequentially, starting at the base of your ribs.

WAVES: Envision yourself on a beach seeing the waves gently coming in and out. As the waves caress the shore, breathe in and as they travel back into the sea, breathe out.

TREE: stamp your feet on the ground, firmly planting them. Imagine you are a tree and your feet have roots that grow deep into the ground. Breath through those roots up through your legs into your entire being. With practice, it is possible to feel breath moving through your entire body.

GROUNDING STANCE: place feet slightly more than shoulder width apart and allow your feet to be slightly pigeon toed. Press your feet outwards as if you were trying to split the floor in two. Notice your seat bones separate with breath dropping down into that area. This stance is also great for really feeling your own power. If you have an upcoming proposal or confrontation, get into this stance and envision what you want.

SHOULDER RELEASE: Roll your shoulders back and allow the scapula to drop (good for posture!). Then inhale as you allow your scapula to drop down further.

YOGA POSES (for those of you who practice): try the squat, crocodile and child's poses.

The final step of course is to bring these techniques into everyday. Start to scan your body often during the day. When you feel stiff, be sure to move around gently and breathe into the tension, releasing it. When you are stressed, balance your breathing followed by exhaling longer. When stuck in an argument or fearful situation, walk away to clear your head. If you can't remove yourself, breathe deeply so you can slow down and hopefully respond with a rational mind. Most importantly, take time to just sit and breathe everyday. It will help you re-balance your body and notice your mind chatter. As you become aware of your thoughts and body, you can begin to create change and a more balanced life. Happy breathing!
About the Author
Cindy Ashton is an expert in helping people kiss their monsters & unleash their courage. Born with a 20% chance of living, Cindy's life triumphs are a miracle. She presents keynote speeches, interactive seminars & motivational concerts across North America. http://www.cindyashton.com
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