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Deep Breathing: A Great Health Trick

Deep Breathing:  A Great Health Trick

I learned how to do deep breathing about thirty years ago while watching the PBS program, “Lilias, Yoga, and You.” This half-hour yoga class was taught by the sweet-spirited Lilias Folan and featured the expected lotus, fish, and shoulder stands familiar to anyone who’s explored this form of exercise. The thing that has stuck with me down through the years, however, has been the breathing and relaxation techniques she taught. I still use these methods when I need to relax, such as when I have to get a blood test or can’t sleep. Here are some tips for getting started.


1. Sit in a relaxed pose, either on the floor or in a chair. Focus on your breath for a few moments as you breathe normally.

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2. Now inhale through the nose to a slow count of four. Envision your lungs filling up from your belly to your collarbones. At the top of the breath, pause a split second before exhaling to a count of four. Let the air out from the collarbone back down to the belly, and squeeze the abs a bit to make sure it is all out. (If this is easy for you, you can extend the exhale to the count of six or even eight.)

3. Now take a moment to pay attention to how that breath made you feel.

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When breathing deeply for relaxation, the technique of paying attention to how you feel is all important. Look for pockets of tension in your muscles. Places where tension settles can be anywhere, but the shoulders are of course a common place. If you sense tension here, make a conscious effort to let those shoulders drop. Pay attention to the muscles of your face and tell them to relax as well.

Lilias used to teach us to breathe in energy and breathe out tension. Then she would talk us through a wonderful sequence of progressive relaxation, starting with the feet and working muscle by muscle up the body. Learning to do this can make getting to sleep easier. It can also help a person be able to tell when they are tensing up somewhere in the body. Progressive relaxation is also used in self-hypnosis.

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I never got into thinking of yoga as anything more than physical exercise, but the stretches do make you feel great. However, I feel knowing how to breathe and relax is a skill that has served me well for many years, and I urge everyone to learn it.

References:
Folan, Lilias. Lilias! Yoga Gets Better with Age
Allman, Brian. Self-Hypnosis; The Complete Manual For Health And Self-Change

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Barbara Wood is a writer and educator living in the Missouri Ozarks.

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

How To Study Effectively: 7 Simple Tips

How To Study Effectively: 7 Simple Tips

The brain is a tangled web of information. We don’t remember single facts, but instead we interlink everything by association. Anytime we experience a new event, our brains tie the sights, smells, sounds and our own impressions together into a new relationship.

Our brain remembers things by repetition, association, visual imagery, and all five senses. By knowing a bit about how the brain works, we can become better learners, absorbing new information faster than ever.

Here are some study tips to help get you started:

1. Use Flashcards

Our brains create engrained memories through repetition. The more times we hear, see, or repeat something to ourselves, the more likely we are to remember it.

Flashcards can help you learn new subjects quickly and efficiently. Flashcards allow you to study anywhere at any time. Their portable nature lends them to quick study sessions on the bus, in traffic, at lunch, or in the doctor’s office. You can always whip out your flashcards for a quick 2 to 3 minute study session.

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To create effective flashcards, you need to put one point on each flashcard. Don’t load up the entire card with information. That’s just overload. Instead, you should dedicate one concept to each card.

One of the best ways to make flashcards is to put 1 question on the front and one answer on the back. This way, you can repeatedly quiz yourself into you have mastered any topic of your choice.

Commit to reading through your flash cards at least 3 times a day and you will be amazed at how quickly you pick up new information.

As Tony Robbins says,

“Repetition is the mother of skill”.

2. Create the Right Environment

Often times, where you study can be just as important as how you study. For an optimum learning environment, you’ll want to find a nice spot that is fairly peaceful. Some people can’t stand a deafening silence, but you certainly don’t want to study near constant distractions.

Find a spot that you can call your own, with plenty of room to spread out your stuff. Go there each time you study and you will find yourself adapting to a productive study schedule. When you study in the same place each time, you become more productive in that spot because you associate it with studying.

3. Use Acronyms to Remember Information

In your quest for knowledge, you may have once heard of an odd term called “mnemonics”. However, even if you haven’t heard of this word, you have certainly heard of its many applications. One of the most popular mnemonic examples is “Every Good Boy Does Fine”. This is an acronym used to help musicians and students to remember the notes on a treble clef stave.

An acronym is simply an abbreviation formed using the intial letters of a word. These types of memory aids can help you to learn large quantities of information in a short period of time.

4. Listen to Music

Research has long shown that certain types of music help you to recall information. Information learned while listening to a particular song can often be remembered simply by “playing” the songs mentally in your head.

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5. Rewrite Your Notes

This can be done by hand or on the computer. However, you should keep in mind that writing by hand can often stimulate more neural activity than when writing on the computer.

Everyone should study their notes at home but often times, simply re-reading them is too passive. Re-reading your notes can cause you to become disengaged and distracted.

To get the most out of your study time, make sure that it is active. Rewriting your notes turns a passive study time into an active and engaging learning tool. You can begin using this technique by buying two notebooks for each of your classes. Dedicate one of the notebooks for making notes during each class. Dedicate the other notebook to rewriting your notes outside of class.

6. Engage Your Emotions

Emotions play a very important part in your memory. Think about it. The last time you went to a party, which people did you remember? The lady who made you laugh, the man who hurt your feelings, and the kid who went screaming through the halls are the ones you will remember. They are the ones who had an emotional impact.

Fortunately, you can use the power of emotion in your own study sessions. Enhance your memory by using your five senses. Don’t just memorize facts. Don’t just see and hear the words in your mind. Create a vivid visual picture of what you are trying to learn.

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For example, if you are trying to learn the many parts of a human cell, begin physically rotating the cell in your minds eye. Imagine what each part might feel like. Begin to take the cell apart piece by piece and then reconstruct it. Paint the human cell with vivid colors. Enlarge the cell in your mind’s eye so that it is now six feet tall and putting on your own personal comedy show. This visual and emotional mind play will help deeply encode information into your memory.

7. Make Associations

One of the best ways to learn new things is to relate what you want to learn with something you already know. This is known as association, and it is the mental glue that drives your brain.

Have you ever listened to a song and been flooded by memories that were connected to it? Have you ever seen an old friend that triggered memories from childhood? This is the power of association.

To maximize our mental powers, we must constantly be looking for ways to relate new information with old ideas and concepts that we are already familiar with.

You can do this with the use of mindmapping. A mind map is used to diagram words, pictures, thoughts, and ideas into a an interconnected web of information. This simple practice will help you to connect everything you learn into a global network of knowledge that can be pulled from at any moment.

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Learn more about mindmapping here: How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

Featured photo credit: Alissa De Leva via unsplash.com

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