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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Just Breathe!

One of the first stress management techniques I teach my students is breathing. It's easy to learn, can be done anywhere, anytime and is extremely effective. Diaphragmatic breathing involves the upper & middle chest and abdominals. Separate the breath in thirds on the inhale and the exhale. One third for abdominals, one third for middle chest and one third for upper chest. Keeping the mouth closed at all times (unless you have sinus issues), inhale through the nose and into your belly. Place one hand on your belly and feel it rise with the inhalation. You will notice your middle chest expand as it fills and last, your upper chest. Hold the breath for a count of three. Exhaling through the nose, exhale from upper chest one third of the breath out, then move to your middle chest and feel that collapsing, and finally squeeze all the breath from your belly. Hold the breath for a count of three at this point and then inhale again and repeat the process. If possible, shut your eyes and focus on body awareness and where the breath is moving. A good rule is to inhale to a count of six, hold for a count of three, exhale to a count of six or eight, hold for a count of three and repeat. Continue this breathing pattern for five to ten rounds.
When we slow down the breath, we send a message to our brain that we are not stressed. This stops or slows down the stress response.
The more you practice this technique, the more immediate your relaxation response will be.