Calming breathing exercises for relaxation
We don’t need to think about breathing. We do it automatically, all the time – or do we? Yes, we have to keep breathing to live, but when we’re busy and stressed our breathing can become shallow. We don’t take in enough oxygen and that can contribute to our feeling tense and tired, which soon shows in our face. Breathing should be the easiest thing in the world, but it’s worth taking some time out to become aware of it and breathe more effectively.
Think about what happens when we breathe. When we take a breath in, our diaphragm moves down so our lungs can expand. We take air in through our mouth or nose and down through the windpipe to the lungs. From there it passes through blood vessels to the heart, which pumps the oxygenated blood to every part of the body. The deeper the breath, the more air – and oxygen – we take in to nourish and revitalise our body.
In Eastern medicine, good breathing is considered essential to carry our essential life forces, or qi, around the body. Only when the qi (pronounced ‘chee’) is flowing properly can our body be balanced and healthy – and that includes our skin.
Unfortunately too many of us sit in a hunched position, with our shoulders up around our ears and body tight with tension; it’s hard to breathe effectively that way. Whenever you feel particularly stressed and tired, stop and take some healing breaths. The world will be able to manage without you for 5 minutes – and you’ll feel so much better for it.
Try these calming breathing exercises
- Stand up straight with your weight evenly balanced on both feet, or sit comfortably but upright, feet flat on the floor. Shrug you shoulders right up, then sink them down again, as far as you can. Do this several times. Imagine that the top of your head is reaching up to the ceiling and try to release any tension in your neck. Very gently roll your head around a few times in each direction.
- Start taking deep, even breaths. Breathe in to a count of four or five, hold the breath for a couple of counts, then breathe out to a count of six. Keep your breathing as slow and steady as you can, and see if you can start breathing out to a count of seven or eight to really expel all the air from your body. Take the breath deep down to your abdomen when you breathe in.
- Close your eyes and imagine that life-giving breath extending to all corners of your body. Picture it flowing into your toes and fingertips, around your back and shoulders, and into your head.
- Focus on the feeling of your chest expanding and falling as you breathe in and out, but don’t force it – let it happen naturally and gently.
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