Use the Breath to Relax the Body and the Mind
We tend to only notice the breath when we are short of it. Physical exercise or stress can shorten the breath. The first but less recognised indication of stress or anxiety is our breathing rhythm. It will start to increase in rate and become not so deep or full.
If you have an awareness of your breathing you can change it. The body will follow what the breath is doing. If we gain control over the breath, by starting to slow it down and breathing a little deeper the body will start to follow.
We forget how important we are sometimes. We get out of touch with ourselves. Bringing awareness to the breath creates that connection or union between the body the mind and the breath. It allows us to focus within and create space in the busy mind.
When bringing your awareness to the breath, it is important to take in everything there is about the breath. Like it is the first time you have taken a breath on your own. Feel the air moving through the simple tissues of your nose. Is the air cold or warm. Is it cooler on the inhale than the exhale. Feel where it is going to and where it is coming from. Feel the rise and fall of the chest and the abdomen. Feel the ribs expanding and contracting.
The list goes on but you get what I mean. Full awareness on the breath. Deepen each inhale and lengthen each exhale. When doing these things the body will start to slow to match the breath. The blood pressure will decrease, and you will find that you become more relaxed. The body starts to let go of the tension.
Monkey mind is a condition we have when the mind is on overdrive and won’t give us a break from the thousands of thoughts that are flooding in and going around and around.
When we draw our focus and attention to the breath, the monkey can get off the roundabout and slow the amount of thought coming into the mind, creating space. We are in effect giving the monkey a job to do, redirecting his focus from all the busy to just one thing.
This will then allow the mind to settle and become calm. This is where the body starts to let go and gets that relaxed feeling. When the breathing slows the body will follow.
Our body has a sympathetic nervous system, which is our fight and flight response. When the body is in this state our blood pressure and heart rate rise, the breath becomes shallow and quick and the body will start to tense up and become tight. These are symptoms of anxiety and stress.
The parasympathetic nervous system is our rest and digest state. The body relaxes and lets go, the breathing becomes deep and long and the blood pressure and heart rate will decrease. The good news is that we can trick our nervous system into a parasympathetic state.
When controlling the breath to slow it down, the body will follow and move into the parasympathetic state. So when experiencing anxiety or stress, remove yourself to a quiet place (even the toilet if that is all you have available) and start to slow the breathing rhythm down.
I find counting the length of each inhale and each exhale helps to increase the length. After about 5 deep controlled breaths, the body should start to let go. Continue for about 10 long breaths. Don’t breath so deep that it makes you light headed. If you start to feel light headed bring your breathing back to it’s natural rhythm.
Hearing the breath can sometimes help to focus. By putting a slight restriction in the throat and making the breath audible can help to keep the focus.
Another tool to help with focus is movement. Try raising your arms on the inhale and lowering them on the exhale. Maybe pushing the hand away from the body on the exhale and drawing them back towards the body on the inhale.
Play around with it and find what works for you. When I am having trouble getting to sleep, I will using a breathing technique to relax the mind and body, and within no time I am in the land of nod.