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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 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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