Managing Stress With Your Breath

Working with your breath is an important way to affect your mental state. It’s easy too, since you always have your breath with you.

I have been using this highly effective technique since I read Dr. Andrew Weil’s, “8 Weeks to Optimum Health”. I recommend getting the book too, as it has a wide range of practical and insightful tips that I have used to improve my life.

From Dr. Andrew Weil’s site:

Unhealthy stress can wreak havoc on your body and mind. One effective way to help manage stress levels is through breath work, especially through a breathing exercise known as the relaxing breath. This exercise is simple, takes almost no time, requires no special equipment, and can be done anywhere. Start by sitting with your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and begin inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

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