Breathing techniques for relaxation
Deep breathing and meditation are excellent ways to relax and calm the mind. Neuroscientists have actually shown that the brain waves of meditators are different than those who do not practice meditation. This mental shift has been shown to reduce the negative effects of stress, anxiety and depression. People who meditate also have been shown to have lower blood pressure, less symptoms of chronic pain, and better overall health than those who do not meditate. In a study conducted on college students, meditation was shown to improve academic performance, concentration, reaction time, memory, empathy and self-esteem. In the over 1,000 scientific publications that have studied the effect of meditation to date, meditation has been shown to improve outcome in every health aspect studied.
Meditation usually involves some breathing techniques for relaxation to center the mind and calm the body. Deep breathing oxygenates the lungs and reduces stress and anxiety.
Breathing Techniques for Relaxation: Belly Breathing
This is a type of breathing that is often employed in yoga classes. You expand your whole stomach and chest on the inhale and collapse it on the exhale. This breathing technique utilizes the lungs to their full capacity, oxygenates the body, and activates the relaxation response. The best way to know if you are doing it correctly is to lie on your back and rest your hand on your belly. When you inhale, expand your ribs, diaphragm, and belly, feeling your hand rise and fall with each breath. When you exhale, imagine flattening your belly against your spine. Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth.
Breathing Techniques for Relaxation: Nostril Breathing
This breathing technique is great for anxiety. It balances the mind and calms the nervous system. Begin by letting go of all the air in your lungs – exhale using both nostrils. Gently press your thumb against the right nostril – closing it completely, and then inhale slowly through left nostril. Hold your breath for a few seconds. With your right forefinger close your left nostril as you release your thumb from the right nostril. Exhale through the right nostril, while keeping the left one closed. Hold for a few seconds. Inhale through the right nostril, hold; release your forefinger as you close your right nostril with your thumb. Exhale through the left nostril, while you keep the right nostril closed. Hold for a few seconds. Inhale through the left nostril; continue this for about 8 cycles.
Breathing Techniques for Relaxation: Natural Breathing
This type of breathing technique is natural and rhythmic. Picture a baby breathing while sleeping and you will get a good idea of the goal of this technique. It has been shown to decrease blood pressure and anxiety. With this technique, you breathe with your diaphragm. The best way to practice natural breathing is to lay down with your hand on your chest. There should be no movement here, natural breathing should come through your diaphragm. Inhale and exhale through the nose, keeping breaths rhythmic and smooth.