Did you know that by simply breathing mindfully you can reduce stress and mental anxiety? There is a simple breathing technique that can help you with stress.
Conscious breathwork, known as Pranayama, is an ancient practice and can be found in the Yoga Sutras, a text that dates back 5,000 years. Defined as the practice of controlling the breath or life force energy, it is one of the most beneficial practices not only for the physical body but also for easing the mind and emotions.
Pranayama is considered to be a vehicle for the life force that animates our human form, an energy that is infinite and everywhere. During pranayama, you are able to harness and control this life force energy through controlled breath.
How Does Pranayama Work?
When the physical body is in a state of stress or mental agitation, the breath tends to be contained in the upper chest area. Physiologically, when the breath is limited to the top 25% of the lungs, it triggers the sympathetic nervous system. This is the “fight or flight” response, which increases stress levels.
However, when you focus on your breath, mindfully inhaling and exhaling, you are able to draw the breath into the lower portion of the rib cage. When your breath can flow into the lower 75% of the lungs, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated. You’re then pulled out of ‘fight or flight’ and into a state of ‘rest and digest.’ In this state, your body and mind believe that you’re safe and protected and can let go of their grip, let go of stress and begin to relax.
- Puts the body into a state of rest and digest
- Reduces stress
- Calms nerves
- Helps focus the mind
- Eases anger
- Helps with insomnia
- Reduces blood pressure
- Increases intellectual acuity
- Aids in the ability to better deal with confrontations and daily upsets
- Balances the left and right sides of the body and brain
There are a lot of different breathing techniques, but the Balanced Breath is one of the most accessible and effective methods. It tells the body that you are safe and activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
This breath technique brings balance to the body and mind by bridging the:
- Inhale and Exhale
- Right Brain and Left Brain
- Creative Side and Analytical Side
- Feminine and Masculine
- Receiving and Giving
- Moon Energy and Sun Energy
A How-To Guide to the Balanced Breath
First, keep the natural rhythm of the breath. Don’t force it, let it flow with ease. Embrace wherever you are.
Then draw your attention to your inhale – is it short, shallow, or the opposite? Slowly count the length of your inhale. It might be 3 or 4 or 5 seconds. This is your starting point.
This count will undoubtedly change from day to day. The breath can be affected by outside experiences, emotions, food, stress, and so many other factors. Some days will be better than others.
Once you have your inhale count, bring the exhale to the exact same count, so that both your inhale and exhale are even. Feel the rise and fall of each breath. Slow down your breathing, it’s not a race. This practice is meant to be calming and relaxing.
Breath in and out evenly through the nose for 5 rounds. Then try to bring the inhale a fraction deeper into the rib cage and add one count to both the inhale and exhale. Hold this for 5 rounds.
With practice, your lung capacity will increase, stress will decrease, and your body will find prolonged harmony in the state of rest and digest.
Along with breathing, if you want to find out how your body is dealing with stress check out our state-of-the-art scans.