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Breathe Your Way to Stress Relief

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Katrina Heisler
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Photo: Courtesy of Graur Codrin

Breathing exercises have long been considered a sacred and respected tool utilized by many cultures to achieve mental and physical balance within the body. More recently, physicians, therapists and trainers alike have encouraged deep breathing to help ease tension, cleanse the body, boost energy, and relieve stress. Essentially you can “exercise” anywhere at any time to provide relief and relaxation. Breathing exercises last from 5-10 minutes and just require two tools; your body and your mind. Most exercises can be done while sitting, so they are ideal for a stressful day at your desk or a frustrating drive in rush hour. 

Deep breathing is all about clearing the mind and focusing on breath. Focusing on your breath eases tension and calms the mind. It also stretches the lungs and muscles that are often stiff. The majority of us take shallow and rapid breaths, which can result in weak, stiff muscles along with poor posture. Sit up straight when you are practicing and turn off all external stimuli (i.e. the TV, radio). Think about what you are nervous, anxious, and upset about.  As you exhale, imagine all stressors being expelled from your body. As you deeply breathe in, your lungs re-expand and a burst of oxygen rushes through your body and to your brain providing fresh energy.

Below is an example of an easy breathing exercise that takes five minutes, so I encourage you to try it out several times. UNH Health Services also has meditation and breathing exercise tools online and at Health Services. Who would’ve thought something so mindless, that we do unconsciously to survive, could have such a powerful impact on our well-being? It's amazing what happens when we just breathe.

Breathing Exercise:

  1. Sit up straight. Exhale.
  2. Inhale, and at the same time, relax the belly muscles. Feel as though the belly is filling with air.
  3. After filling the belly, keep inhaling. Fill up the middle of your chest. Feel your chest and rib cage expand.
  4. Hold the breath in for a moment, then begin to exhale as slowly as possible.
  5. As the air is slowly let out, relax your chest and rib cage. Begin to pull your belly in to force out the remaining breath.
  6. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing.
  7. Relax your face and mind.
  8. Let everything go.
  9. Practice about 5 minutes.

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