Taking a Deep Breath

Catie sitting on meditation mat

By Stephanie Flanders-Martin

With our current stay at home order, due to CoVID, many of us are experiencing a variety of levels of stress. Short term, stress is quite normal, but the long-term effects of stress may lead to high blood pressure, suppressed immune systems, colds and flues, fatigue, insomnia, depression and the list goes on. An effective stress management program includes both coping techniques and relaxation skills.

During these uncertain times we may all feel a but uneasy. I know at times I notice the ebb and flow of anxiousness fill my body. It’s in these uncertain times that we need to make sure that we are breathing! With deep breath comes relaxation, so lets all start with a community inhale…..then let your breath release with a heavy sigh.

We have all heard the word mindfulness, in fact it’s become a buzzword that I think many have become numb to. The definition of mindfulness simply means- “a present moment, non-judgement awareness, paying attention to what’s going on without judging good or bad, just observing and experiencing the moment”.

Being mindful, a coping technique, brings us to the present moment, allowing us to bring our awareness to what is causing our stress. When we think about the past, we may focus on things we can no longer change, causing us to feel anxious or moments of stress. When we project into the future, and the unknown it may cause us to feel anxious about things that may or may not even happen; therefore, staying in the present, and being mindful of being in the now, helps us to keep our anxiety and fears in check. The base of staying present, breath!

Breathing deeply and slowly helps to engage the parasympathetic system, or rest and digest. When you begin to feel anxious or uncertain, bring your mind to the moment, the present, the here and now and take a deep breath!

Here are a few practices you can use:

  1. Box Breathing. One of my favorites, when breathing, you create a virtual box.
    1. Close the eyes
    1. Breath slowly to the count of 3-4 or 5. Use what feels best to you
    1. At the top of that breath, take a few second pause
    1. Exhale to the same count-3, 4 or 5.
    1. Continue for 8-10 rounds and notice how the body feels when you are done.
  2. Belly Breathing.
    1. Start in a chair, sit nice and tall and place your feet flat on the earth. Place both hands on the belly.
    1. As you inhale, notice the belly rising as the lungs fill with air.
    1. As you exhale, the palms of the hands slowly follow the belly back.
    1. Repeat 8-10 times, staying in the present noticing the sensations of the breath as it flows in and out of the body.
  3. Lengthened Exhale Breathing.
    1. Start in a chair, sit nice and tall, feet flat on the earth, or lie on your back. With either position, place your palms on your belly.
    1. As you slowly inhale, count to 3, 4 or 5
    1. As you exhale, count to 5, 6 or 7(respectively based on your inhale)
    1. Fully empty the body of breath, then start your next slow inhale
    1. Repeat this process 8-10 times and notice and feelings and sensations in the body

Whatever practice you are most drawn to, after giving them all a try, will be the perfect practice for you. Next time you begin to feel uncertain, worried or a bit anxious use your go to breathing practice above to bring you back to the moment-being mindful and staying present.

You may contact Stephanie at www.treeoflifeyoga.studio

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