Stress is one of the biggest problems in today’s society as it causes numerous health problems and leads to premature deterioration in virtually every part of your body. A high level of stress can also derail even a great exercise and nutrition program and leave you with little to show for all your hard work.
To make matters worse, many people don’t realize how stressed they really are, so they don’t think about taking steps to reduce their level of stress. To help decrease your level of stress, this article explains a simple breathing technique you can use everyday to increase relaxation and help you feel better.
First I should point out that I did not come up with this stress reduction technique and it was learned from listening to a talk by Dr. Andrew Weil. This technique primarily involves deep breathing and there is an element of meditation, but what most people really like is it is very simple and can be done in just a few minutes, although it takes some time and practice to really become good at using it.
This stress relieving technique is centered on taking very long and deep breaths. The ideal breath consists of breathing in for 4 counts, holding your breath for 7 counts, and breathing out for 8 counts. Eventually, this is repeated for 8 full breaths, but you may have to start with fewer at first.
Most people are not able to come close to performing this ideal breath at first, but with practice it will become much easier and you will get more benefit from the breathing. It can also help to start with 4 breaths and work your way up to 8 as you become more comfortable with the technique.
You may have noticed that I listed all the times in counts and not seconds. This is because when you start, even if you cannot make the breaths last very long, you can still keep the same ratio of time spent performing each part of the breath.
When I started, my breaths were probably only about half as long as they ideally should have been, but that just meant my counts were about twice as fast. I still benefited from breathing at this speed and the more I practiced, the longer I could maintain each breath.
The change did not happen overnight, but I noticed that over time my counting naturally slowed down as my breaths become longer. You should not force yourself to try and make each breath longer than feels comfortable, as that is not relaxing and sort of defeats the purpose of this technique. Instead, just focus on your counts and try to have your breaths be as slow, deep, and relaxed as possible.
This technique works best if you can perform your breathing in quiet area, preferably with minimal light and distraction. A good goal is to do this twice a day, but if you can only do it once, probably the best time is at night when you go to bed. This technique helps clear your mind, because you will be concentrating on your breathing, and it should be relaxing which will help you fall asleep a little easier.
As for the breaths themselves, your chest and then stomach should expand when you breathe in and the opposite should happen when you breathe out. It is common for people to breathe the opposite way (pulling stomach in when breathing in), but this goes against the way your body is supposed to work and it will benefit you greatly if you retrain your body by practicing the correct breathing pattern.
Learning to take these deep and prolonged breaths may feel very strange at first and you may even get light headed due to the increased level of oxygen getting to your brain, but stick with it. The initial strangeness will soon pass and this simple breathing technique can cause a significant reduction in your stress level, which will help you feel better every day.
If you want to find out more about Dr. Weil or read some of his other information, check out his website at www.drweil.com.
14 years of experience and education in health and fitness