The ancient Greeks used pneuma to indicate both breath and spirit and that’s not just a coincidence. The advice to take a deep breath when feeling stressed has help us for years because it’s been shown to reduce blood pressure and stabilize the sympathetic nervous system as you increase the oxygen in your system.
A number of current fitness options emphasize deep, regulated breathing along with physical movement, such as yoga, tai chi, and chi gung. Joining a fitness class isn’t necessary to reap the benefits of stress-relieving breathing, however. You can practice breathing exercise throughout daily life to invigorate your body and mind.
Here are a few tips to relieving stress through breathing techniques:
- Go deep
To maximize the benefits of relaxation breathing, be sure to use your diaphragm and breathe deeply. This can be done by envisioning that you’re sucking in air through a straw. Your stomach should push out as your lungs fill with air. If your shoulders are moving instead, then you’re breathing shallowly.
- Slow down Silently count slowly (1-2-3-4) while breathing in, hold your breath for another four counts, exhale fully while silently counting again (1-2-3-4), and pause for another four counts before breathing again. Repeat this series for about a minute (five to six times), and then return your breathing to its normal rhythm. You should feel calmer and more peaceful right away.
- Add value
While engaging in these breathing exercises, meditate on a strengthening word or phrase, like peace or power, that contains a value or characteristic you would like to feel. Repeat this silently with each breath taken and released. As you breathe, focus the breath, envisioning it cleansing and releasing tension from head to toe. Continue for three
minutes, and you should feel stronger and renewed.