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 in your mind. Imagine the wave gently coming in to shore, taking 6 seconds to come in and 6 seconds to go back out.
- Keeping your posture and spine upright and your shoulders and neck relaxed, begin to breathe in sync with the gentle waves.
- As the wave comes in, gently inhale for 6 seconds, sending your breath deep into your belly and filling your chest area. As the wave moves away, gently exhale for 6 seconds. Keep your breath smooth and even as the wave changes direction.
- 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.