What does relaxation mean to you? For most people, relaxation means vegging out in front of the television, or perusing social media at the end of a long, stressful day. However, this does little for protecting us from the damaging effects of stress.
To effectively fight against the ravages of stress, we need to activate our body’s natural relaxation response. The “relaxation response” is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress, such as decreasing heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension, slows breathing and more.
The best way is for relieving stress and eliciting the body’s relaxation response is to simply breathe. “What? We all breathe… in fact, I’m breathing right now!” Yes, that’s right, but this is a conscious, focused breathing that is extremely effective, free and can be practiced anywhere!
You don’t necessarily have to be alone in a quiet space or seated in the lotus position. You can practice concentrating on your breathing at wherever you are at anytime you feel yourself getting stressed or overwhelmed. Here is an easy breathing exercise you can put into practice anywhere, anytime starting today!
Step by step instructions:
Before you start, pick a count for your inhale and a count for your exhale that is a little longer. If you’re not sure, try starting with 2 counts in, and 4 counts out, with a one count pause at the top of the inhale and a one count pause at the bottom of the exhale.
Now that you’re ready to begin, sit still and tall somewhere comfortable. Shut your eyes and begin breathing deeply through your nose and into your belly.
Inhale for a count of two… hold the breath in for a count of one… exhale gently, counting out for four… and finish by holding the breath out for a count of one, and so on. Make sure to keep your breath even and smooth.
Continue breathing this way for 1 to 5 minutes. Start off small and increase the time as you become more proficient. Set a timer if that helps you to stay on track.
If the 2-4 count feels too short try increasing the breath lengths to 4 in and 6 out, or 6 in and 8 out, and so on. If longer breaths create any anxiety there is no need to push yourself. The most important thing is that the exhale is longer than the inhale, not the length of the breath, and the more you practice breathing this way, the more natural it will feel!