Your body’s response to stress is triggered automatically by a part of your nervous system that you have little control over.
This takes you out of a calm and balanced state and puts you into a state of ‘fight or flight’, altering your heart rate, blood pressure and your breathing. This is when feelings of anxiety and fear occur.
There are very few ways you can control this system. But one way is really easy…
Just as your nervous system can change your breathing, your breathing can change your nervous system. Through balanced breathing, you can turn your fear into courage and anxiety into calm.
Your guide to Balanced Breathing
[An audio version of this guide is available at the end]
- Sit in a comfortable and relaxed position. (You’ll feel more comfortable in a sitting position rather than lying down).
- Make sure your spine is straight and your shoulders are relaxed. Avoid having your tailbone tucked under you and your shoulders hunched forward as it will restrict your ability to breathe into your chest area. Instead, sit upright (without tension or effort), lengthen your spine, allow your shoulder blades to gently flatten against your back. Keep your head positioned over your shoulders (not protruding in front of them) to make sure your neck stays loose and relaxed. Your eyes may be open or closed.
- Begin to breathe in deeply yet gently through your nose, and breathe out through either your nose or mouth, whichever is most comfortable. You don’t need to use effort or force. You can do this easily, naturally and in a relaxed way.
- Keeping your posture relaxed and upright, breathe deeply into and from your belly. Allow your deep yet gentle breath to naturally expand your chest and ribcage area.
- Exhale deeply without creating any tension in your body. Notice your body relaxing more deeply with each breath.
- Now picture a wave like this in your mind. Imagine a ball slowly and smoothly moving along the even waves, taking 6 seconds to travel up the wave and 6 seconds to come down the wave.
- Keeping your posture and spine upright and your shoulders and neck relaxed, begin to breathe in sync with this ball.
- As the ball moves up the wave, gently inhale for 6 seconds, sending your breath deep into your belly and filling your chest area. As the ball moves down the wave, gently exhale for 6 seconds. Keep your breath smooth and even as the ball moves around the top and bottom of this imaginary sine wave.
- Continue balanced breathing in a deep yet relaxed way for several minutes. The longer you choose to do this, the better, and even with just a couple of minutes you’ll start to experience significant benefits.
The mental, emotional and health benefits you’ll gain from practising balanced breathing have been scientifically proven to be widespread and long lasting.
This guide was adapted from the book: mBraining. If you find it’s not very easy to breath evenly right now, you might consider using a balanced breathing pacer. A selection of mp3 pacers are available for free download from mBraining.com.
Balanced breathing audio guide
Hayley shares her personal stories of feeling shy, socially anxious, ‘not good enough’ and fearfully avoiding the good things in life. Growing her confidence through coaching, gradually stretching her comfort zone and connecting with others, she now uses everything she has learned to help other people grow their confidence in her role as a coach. Hayley is passionate about connecting people with similar stories and creating safe, supportive spaces to make friends and try new things. Hayley dreams of a time when all of the strengths, skills and goodness in ‘quiet’ is recognised and appreciated as readily as being bold, gregarious, and comfortable in the spotlight is right now.