*I'm blogging while listening to Anna Nalicks- Breathe*
I'm going to start with a short three minute breathing exercise that you can do anywhere and THEN explain how and why it works. It's kind of like starting with dessert and THEN eating your vegetables. The first is fun and the second is helpful... As long as it's not say, Beets. ;)
Sit with your feet flat on the floor and your hands relaxed comfortably on your lap. Relax your shoulders and soften your face. Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath. Try and quiet your mind while you focus on your breathing, in and out... in and out.
On your next inhale, count to three, and pause. Then as you exhale, exhale for a count of five, and pause. Yes, you are exhaling longer than you are inhaling, and this is intentional. Continue to inhale for three counts and exhale for five. As you do this pay close attention to your body and where exactly you feel tension. On your next inhale, focus on that location and imagine your inhale going to that exact spot, pause, and on your next exhale releasing the stress from your body and imagine it leaving with your breath.
Gently take inventory of yourself, beginning at the top of your head and working your way down to your toes. Depending upon the time you have, a cursory once over may be all you can do. That is perfect! If you can spend more time, that is perfect as well. The entire purpose behind this exercise is to sit quietly, focus inward and relax, if even for a few minutes. The beauty of this Three Minute Meditation is that you can do it anywhere. The office, the bus, your childs soccer practice, PTA meetings, need I continue?!? This is all about you taking a wee bit of time FOR YOU and slowing down. Even three minutes can do wonders.
Now, a wee bit of housekeeping before I continue. Intentional breathing exercises are just that, an exercise that intentional disruption of your normal breathing patterns. If, for any reason, you feel uncomfortable while undertaking this exercise, for goodness sakes STOP. This exercise is specifically to help you relax, not to cause you discomfort. If you have any overarching questions about breathing exercise, or exercise in general, please contact your primary care physician. He or she can be an invaluable tool in your overall health and wellbeing.
I've spent the last few days organizing my books, past academic work, papers, etc. and I came across some reading material I had for a class I took on Breathwork. Now, I'll be honest, I thought it would be a puff class... Yeah, NO... It wasn't.
Breathing is unconscious, automatic and continuous. The only time during the day, that I consciously control my breathing is during meditation and yoga. For many people, working out, whether it be Yoga or otherwise, is the only time during the day they give any thought whatsoever to their breathing. Interesting because the average person take roughly 23,000 breaths a day, which if my math is correct, equates to more than 8 million breaths a year... That is a LOT of breathing...
So, what exactly happens when you breath?? When a person inhales, air is taken into the body via the nose, which travels through the nostrils into nasal cavities, down through the throat (or pharynx) past the voice box (larynx) and into the trachea (air taken in the mouth travels a similar path, but begins with the oral cavity and then travels directly to the throat). The air in the trachea is then routed through the bronchi and bronchioles and into the lungs.
Once in the lungs, the air changes the volume of the thoracic cavity and causes the diaphragm to contract, or tighten and move downward, while this is happening, the intercostal muscles between the ribs contract to pull your rib cage up and out. This causes an increase in the space for the lungs to expand, which in turn causes a change in the shape of the abdominal cavity. This not only makes room for the air which has just entered the lungs, but also alters the pressure inside the lungs, pulling air in. As the thoracic cavity increases in volume the ribs expand and the spine curves into extension. Once in the lungs, the air passes through the alveoli, which facilitates the exchange of oxygen into the bloodstream, where it is carried throughout the body, and exchanged for the waste gas carbon dioxide. Carbon Dioxide is then carried through the blood stream back to the alveoli, where it begins the exhalation journey.
When you exhale, the abdominal cavity once again changes shape (not volume) as the diaphragm relaxes and moves upward into the chest cavity. The intercostal muscles between the ribs relax, reducing the space in the thoracic cavity and causing the spine to move into flexion. This decreases the volume of and pressure in the thorax, and initiates the exhalation. Carbon Dioxide moves into the aveoli, then into the lungs, where the pressure change caused by the diaphragm forces the carbon dioxide rich exhalation out the bronchioles, and bronchi, into the trachea, through the larynx, pharynx and nasal cavaties, to then be exhaled through the nostrils.
Just wow... All of that for one little breath. Throughout the day, you may or may not think about your breathing, but if you do, try this simple exercise to slow your breathing and relax your mind and body. It only need be continued for a few minutes, but the results will be readily obvious.