Breathing Exercises

Often breathing exercises may be combined with a daily meditation routine to provide deep relaxation or rejuvenation. Many are specifically for de-tensing physically and/or emotionally. They all provide improved oxygenation and may lower your blood pressure and/or improve your circulation when done on a routine basis. Below are several you may try. As you try them, record any notes below that might be of use, such as certain times of the day that may be good to do them.

Breathing Meditation For Relaxation

This exercise is a very simple form of meditation and works well to relax and rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit. Find a position that is comfortable for you, whatever that may be. Loosen any tight clothing and close your eyes, if you wish to do so. Just notice your breathing without trying to change it in any way. Notice the temperature of the breath as it enters your body and how it is warmer as it leaves. Observe the cycle and how it flows, noticing any beginning or end if there seems to be one. Do this for at least three minutes if this is new to you, and longer if you are experienced or feel inclined to do so. Do this every day, gradually increasing the length at a rate that is rewarding for you and gives you a sense of progress.

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Diaphragmatic Breathing

This type of breathing is the body's most efficient way to take in oxygen for nourishment and uses about half as much energy as chest breathing. The diaphragm, one of the body's strongest muscles, located just below the rib cage, moves downward, creating a natural pressure vacuum that draws air into the lower portion of the lung. During this part of the cycle the abdomen expands. Then the diaphragm moves upward and the chest expands as the breath exits, filling the upper lung with air on its way out. Imagine there is a balloon in your abdomen that stretches and fills with air on inhalation and shrinks on exhalation. This is a simple awareness exercise and is also very useful for relaxation and rejuvenation. To posture yourself for this exercise, you may sit or stand with your head up, chin relaxed, shoulders wide, slightly back and downward. Position your back comfortably straight. Pretending there is a string treaded through your spine and coming out the top of your head like a puppet, gently tugging, may help.

Place your hands gently on your abdomen and slowly inhale through your nose. Feel your lower ribs move outward and your abdomen expand as you breath in. Then as you exhale through your mouth, feel your abdomen drop and a wave of relaxation flood your abdomen, chest, shoulders, neck, jaw, and face. Do this often during the day every day. Choose to do it at certain moments that will nourish you and energize you. The more frequently you "belly breathe," the sooner it will become a normal pattern of breathing and you won't need to use your hands to feel and direct the movement. When you notice your breathing becoming higher in the chest, go back to using your hands on your abdomen for direction.

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Waking Up And Drifting Off To Sleep Breathing

This is a passive breathing exercise that is done best lying on your back with your arms at your side, so a good time to do it is before your drift off to sleep or as soon as you wake. Focus your attention on your breath with out trying to control it and imagine with each breath that the air is being forced into your lungs and pulled out of your lungs and you are completely passive in the process. As outside forces breath air into you, imagine it penetrating every part of your body from your head to your toes, filling the spaces between the spaces, warming or cooling you comfortably. Choose to use this every morning and/or night.

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Calm Breathing

This breathing is used for any situation that requires de-tensing, such as anxiety, anger, fear, or any upsetting emotional state that is unpleasant to you and causes your body physiology to change. Use it at the first signs of muscle tension, rapid breathing, sweating, cold hands, dry mouth, rapid pulse or tunnel vision. It will enhance the blood flow to the brain and calm your physiology to prevent an adrenaline response commonly referred to as the flight or fight response. Start by loosening your tongue, jaw, face, neck, and shoulder muscles. Position yourself comfortably straight with your shoulders back and smile. Feel your breath come in smoothly, comfortably, fully, slowly, and evenly. Imagine tension melting away as each breath is taken. Let each breath flow to any spots that may be tight, loosening them, creating a lightness in each muscle fiber and layer of skin. Use what ever images relax and calm you. It may be light or cool air or warm breezes or ocean waves or rustling leaves. Think of totally relaxing images and notice the color, and shapes, and sounds as you feel the calming effect it has on your body. Use this throughout the day to relax, beginning at the first signs of possible stress. When used often, it will become an automatic response, and situations that used to be stressful will be comfortable experiences. Choose to do this everyday.

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Reverse Breathing

Breathe in reverse, starting with an exhalation instead of an inhalation, and notice how it is continuous with no beginning or end. This will give you more control over your exhalation and stimulate the use of the voluntary muscles of the rib cage, squeezing the air out of your lungs and fully emptying them of CO2, the waste product of breathing. When you move more air out, you will automatically take more air in. Starting with an exhalation, and not worrying about inhalation will deepen your breathing and oxygenate you more. Choose to do this for several moments throughout the day, everyday.

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Stimulating Breath

This exercise will improve the circulation in the upper body and can be done providing your balance is good and your back is able to stretch well and comfortably as you bend. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. Inhale slowly and as you do, slowly raise your arms above your head. As you exhale, bend your knees and slowly bow forward from the hips, bringing your arms and head into a relaxed position pointing toward the ground, releasing all tension from the neck, forehead, face, scalp, jaw, tongue, shoulders, back, arms, and hands. Stay in this relaxed position for several moments and slowly inhale as you return to an upright position. Do this daily and whenever the upper body feels tired and needs stimulation.

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Revitalizing Breath (Caffeine Substitute)

This exercise can be used as a pick me up when tired from driving or sitting still at a monotonous task for a long period of time. It will energize you as you turn back to normal breathing and you may feel a slight wave of energy or a slight vibration go through your body. Sit in a comfortable upright position. Curl your tongue back on the roof of your mouth and begin the breathing exercise by breathing in and out through the nose with the mouth lightly closed. Inhale in short quick equal breaths, feeling the muscles in your neck and your diaphragm. The breaths should be as rapid and quick as possible. Do the exercise for 10-15 seconds only, increasing the duration by 5 seconds each day you feel comfortable doing so, until you are up to one minute in length.

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Relaxing Breath

This breathing exercise is especially good for reducing anxiety and stress related physical symptoms such as digestive problems, high blood pressure, insomnia and more. This exercise may be done walking, standing or sitting, anywhere, almost anytime. Place the tongue at the roof of your mouth and exhale through the mouth, making an audible sound. Then close your mouth and inhale through your nose to the count of four and hold the breath for a count of seven, then exhale though the mouth making a sound to the count of eight. Repeat this for a total of four cycles, if comfortable to do so, and then breath normally. The length of holding the breath is not as important as maintaining the ratio, so you can adjust the count accordingly until you are practiced enough to slow down the time. Choose to do this twice a day, every day, for approximately one month and then, if comfortable, increase it to eight cycles.

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