One breath in, one breath out. Seems completely automatic and natural so you don’t have to think about what you are doing right? Take a moment and pay attention to just how you are breathing. Are you noticing that you are using more of upper chest and neck muscles to get the air in and out? Are your breaths short and labored? Do you feel like your breathing is stressed? If so then you are like many people and not breathing optimally. Want to see someone who is breathing optimally? Look at a baby or young child. Watch how they breathe deeply and easily into and out of their stomachs. No stress, just air flowing in and out. They are practicing something called Diaphragmatic Breathing and you can too. All it takes is some practice to get the muscle memory going and get that diaphragm moving like it should. Using this will allow you better control your stress levels and stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. 16 seconds is all you need to start with to practice a technique I show my patients. The technique is called Box Breathing. You do not require anything other than yourself and the ability to breath. Here are the steps you should follow:
- Get into a comfortably position. You don’t need to sit cross legged on the floor but sitting upright will help.
- Breathe in deeply through your nose if you can for 4 seconds. Focus on your diaphragm moving downward and your stomach filling with air.
- Hold this breath for 4 seconds.
- Blow out through your mouth for 4 seconds. Focus on having your diaphragm move upward pushing the air out of your lungs.
- Hold this for 4 seconds.
- Repeat as needed.
I typically recommend that people do this at least a couple minutes especially in the beginning when you are getting used to breathing like this. The more you practice the easier the technique will become. If you have ever been part of yoga practice you may be familiar with something similar to this technique. What is in it for you? Here are just a few possible benefits.
- Decreased perception of stress.
- Decreased blood pressure.
- Increased mental clarity.
- Increased ability to focus.
- Increased energy.
Please be aware that by doing this you are not discovering a magic cure all that will take away all of the problems in your life. This will simply empower you with a tool to help you better deal with all those stresses in your life and get yourself a little further down the road.
Christopher Foust, DC, DACBSP