Reduce stress with this breathwork exercise

Focusing on the breath is a fast and easy way to quiet the mind, reduce stress, and reconnect with your body.

Have you ever noticed how the rate of your breathing increases when you are feeling stressed or anxious? During times of stress and anxiety, our breath is shallow and in the chest. This is all due to a chain reaction of events that activates the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the “fight or flight” response due to a perceived threat. 

The “fight or flight” response helped our ancestors if they needed to get away from a sabertooth tiger or such. Once they were out of danger, the parasympathetic system would kick in: releasing the stress hormones and calming the body. In today’s modern society, this process can wreak havoc on our bodies and emotions. As much as we would like to run away from our jobs and homes sometimes, this isn’t realistic or feasible. Did you know that just taking shallow chest breaths can trigger this response? When we sit in front of a computer all day, have a slouched posture, or wear clothes that are constricting, we cannot take full breaths. The diaphragm is restricted. The lungs are not able to inflate during inhalation fully. The brain can then misinterpret this as a stress response, and the next thing we know, we are feeling highly anxious or stressed. 

So when you find yourself in full-blown “fight or flight” mode or become aware that you are heading that way, whether you are stressed out about work or the kids or your chest is restricted in one way or another, come back to the breath. Try doing the following breathwork series:

  • Place your hands on your belly, around your belly button.
  • Inhale slowly-breathing into the belly to the count of 4 or more, feeling the belly expand into your hands
  • At the top of the breath, when you can’t take any more air in, hold it for a count of 4
  • Release the breath fully and slowly to the count of 8, feeling the belly deflate
  • When you feel like you have released all of the air from your lungs, pull your belly button towards your spine a exhale 3 more times, expelling more air out of the lungs.
  • If you can hold here for a count of 4; if not, skip this step.
  • Repeat at least 4 more times or until you feel calmer. As you inhale the next round, keep the inhale at a calm, steady rate. Resist the urge to inhale quickly.

By doing the belly breaths, the lungs inflate more fully, and the diaphragm is pushed down. The vagus nerve (VN) is stimulated during this process. VN is the longest cranial nerve in the body and a major player in the parasympathetic system. It controls the heart, lungs, and digestive tract. When the VN is stimulated, the parasympathetic system starts the “rest and digest” process, allowing you to feel calmer and de-stress. So the next time you are on a deadline at work or the kids (or husband) are driving you crazy, and you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to go within and focus on the breath.

   

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Angie Loren
Angie Loren is an intuitive healer, medium, Reiki master teacher, and shamon practitioner. She is a co-creator of A Center for Transformative Growth in Highland, Indiana. Her soul’s purpose is to help guide others with their healing on all levels of their multidimensional selves, from akashic record cleansing and past life healing to angel card readings, energy healing, and soul retrievals. She has a BA in elementary education, an MS in psychology, and a doctorate in Spiritual Development. To learn more about Angie and her upcoming events, follow her on Facebook @ Butterflies And Light or visit butterfliesandlight.com.
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