Conscious Breathing For Stress
The one thing that we can all do for acute stress & anxiety is so simple that we forget its value.
From the moment we were born it was the first thing we did instinctively… to breathe. Since then the rise and fall of that tide has been something we all take for granted. It’s a physiological thing.
And yet the yogis were aware of the power in this a long time ago. The practice of controlling the breathing for certain outcomes is known as ‘pranayama’.
When the demands that are made of us outweigh our ability to respond we experience stress. The physical body’s response is miraculous. It brings on the fight with a cascade of hormones (adrenaline & noradrenaline from the adrenal glands). This increases our heart rate, our breath rate & our blood pressure. Interestingly the ONE THING that you have access & control over is your BREATH.
By consciously slowing down the breath you slow the heart rate and eventually the hormone cascade dissipates as your internal body is reassured that there is no immediate threat to life. I recommend practicing this regularly outside stressful situations until it feels natural.
The Practice of Conscious Breathing
- A good way to do this is to sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Knees hip width apart above the ankles and palms facing up while they rest on your thighs. Straighten & lengthen the spine creating space between your lower rib cage and pelvis allowing the tummy to move in and out as you breathe. Your chin is parallel to the floor, lengthening the back of the neck so there is no strain.
- Start by taking a few deep breaths, (if possible… in through the nose and out through the mouth). Observe how your body expands with the in breath & relaxes with the out breath. Begin to slow the breathing down. Start counting 1, 2, 3, 4 as you breathe in & 1, 2, 3, 4 as you breathe out. Observe the effect this has on you. Repeat several times.
- Now begin to lengthen the time it takes to breathe all the way out. Do this by counting 1, 2, 3, 4 as you breathe in and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 as you breathe out. Repeat this several times until it feels more natural. Continue this practice & use it throughout the day. We are not always sitting down when stress arises so when you feel familiar with the process practice it sitting, standing, walking & as you lay down & prepare for sleep at night.
There are many other forms of breathing practice which we will explore including the complete yogic breath but for now enjoy this practice and the art of pranayama. Wishing you joy in getting to know your body & your breath!
Dr. Ann Donnelly MB MRCGP DRCOG DFP DYT Dippallmed
Doctor Ann is a family doctor with over 25 years experience in medicine. Her work currently is in the field of palliative medicine in both Hospice and Hospital environments. She is a yoga teacher & she has studied with the British Medical Acupuncture Society & the London Homeopathic Society. Further to this she has been studying and teaching with the Modern Mystery School of Metaphysics for over 10 years and runs a busy holistic practice where she offers sessions and courses for healing, personal development, increased awareness and enlightenment. www.anndonnelly.co.uk