Take a breather— try ‘mind­ful breath­ing’for re­lax­ing, low­er­ing your stress

The Colonial - - AGE HAS NO SEASON -

You do it ev­ery day. You do it with­out think­ing. You do it in your sleep. Stop­ping would be ill-ad­vised. What is it? Breath­ing. How­ever, did you know that con­trol­ling the sim­ple act of breath­ing has the power to en­hance your life in many ways? It’s avail­able to you 24/7. And it’s free. You can’t beat that!

It is rather ironic that though breath­ing is some­thing peo­ple do nat­u­rally, it is nec­es­sary to learn how to use it ef­fec­tively. It takes prac­tice to do any­thing well. Breath­ing is no ex­cep­tion. One has to be­come aware of one’s breath to do some­thing called “mind­ful breath­ing,” which is a pow­er­ful tool in the fight against stress.

So, what ex­actly is mind­ful breath­ing and what are its perks? It is ex­actly what it sounds like — be­ing aware of your breath — each in­hala­tion and ex­ha­la­tion for a short time. In this man­ner, you can achieve re­lax­ation, clear your mind of wor­ries and lower stress. Sound too good to be true? Give it a try.

Sit qui­etly, close your eyes if pos­si­ble and start to fo­cus on your breath­ing. Think of noth­ing ex­cept your slow in­hala­tions, try­ing to clear your mind of all else. Ac­tu­ally visu­al­ize this breath, in­hal­ing clean, white air and ex­hal­ing the neg­a­tive, dark feel­ings from your body. Fo­cus only on your breath — it is not as easy as it sounds. But by per­form­ing this ex­er­cise, you hone in on your breath­ing and ex­ist only in that mo­ment. Breathe deeply, bring­ing in oxy­gen and, of course, ex­pelling car­bon diox­ide. Slowly but surely you will be­gin to re­lax, to feel less stressed and to reap the ben­e­fits of mind­ful breath­ing.

This tech­nique can help to quiet the nerves in stress­ful times — per­haps at the den­tist’s or doc­tor’s of­fice, be­fore tak­ing an exam, meet­ing new peo­ple or in any un­nerv­ing sit­u­a­tion. It is tried and true and it can work for you, too.

While the process of breath­ing needs no in­struc­tion, did you know that there are dif­fer­ent ways to breathe? And fur­ther­more, that there are ben­e­fits to do­ing it one way ver­sus another? Nasal breath­ing has been shown to be more ben­e­fi­cial than mouth breath­ing in many ways. It can in­crease cir­cu­la­tion, slow heart rate, im­prove lung func­tion and lower stress lev­els.

The nose ac­tu­ally warms the air you in­hale, which helps the lungs func­tion bet­ter. Nasal breath­ing also mois­tur­izes the air you breathe in, and the tiny hairs in your nose serve to fil­ter that air. Nasal breath­ing can even re­duce snor­ing. Re­mem­ber that air trav­els through the si­nuses when you breathe through your nose. The si­nuses fil­ter the air as it en­ters the lungs. And nasal breath­ing can also help fight de­hy­dra­tion in that it does not dry the throat as much as mouth breath­ing.

Here is a breath­ing ex­er­cise that you may find ben­e­fi­cial: Sit with one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Take a deep breath, mak­ing sure that it is the hand on your belly that is mov­ing, and not the one on your chest. Your goal is 10 slow breaths per minute. Try to do this for 10 min­utes a day to start. This can lower your blood pres­sure and heart rate and will serve to re­lax you.

Mind­ful breath­ing is a great method to fight in­som­nia on nights when you can­not quiet your mind at bedtime. Give this a try — a good night’s sleep might just be a breath away.

Terry Alburger is the fit­ness in­struc­tor at Brit­tany Pointe Es­tates, an ACTS Re­tire­ment-Life Com­mu­nity in Lans­dale. Email thoughts to tal­burger@act­slife.org.

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