Before you begin, take a moment to check in with yourself. How are you feeling in this moment? Now, without changing your posture, place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach. Take a few minutes to analyze how you breath. Do you notice one hand moving more than the other? Try to gauge your rate of breath. Is your exhale a different length than your inhale or are they equal? Is there a pause to your breath? If so, where do you pause?
Once you have taken some time to evaluate how you are currently breathing, let’s make a few changes. If you aren’t already doing so, sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. For the next few minutes focus on trying to take slow, deep breaths. Ideally, you want to feel movement from the hand on your belly. Concentrate on extending each inhale and exhale to your maximum lung capacity. Take at least 10 full breaths. Now re-check in with yourself. Do you feel any different? Most often people feel less stressed and more relaxed after this breathing exercise.
The Importance of Posture
During the exercise, if you observed only the hand on your chest moving before making adjustments, it’s likely you are taking shallow, rapid breaths. One of the most common causes for this is poor posture. Your posture has a huge effect on your ability to get a full lungful of air. Sitting upright and keeping your shoulders slightly pulled back allows for you to take a deeper breath. Taking deeper breaths increases the surface area of lung tissue used and improves the level of oxygen you get with each breath.
Breathing Rate & Your Stress Levels
Even more importantly, when you take a deeper breath, you slow your rate of breaths per minute down. Slowing the rate of breathing increases relaxation and reduces stress (2). Just focusing on deep breathing for 2-5 minutes a day can decrease stress and anxiety! During deep breathing sessions the optimal rate for slow breathing is close to 6 breaths a minute with equal lengths in your inhale and exhale (3). I don’t recommend jumping straight to 6 breaths a minute. Drastic changes from your normal breathing rate can cause lightheadedness, so keep this in mind as you work towards this goal.
Tools to Focus your Breathing
There are plenty of apps that can help guide your breathing. My favorite is called Calm.com. This app has free breathing meditation that can be helpful for slowing down your breathing rate. Just 2-5 minutes a day can get you feeling more relaxed, centered, and promote improved mental clarity.
Take 2-5 minutes a day to focus on deep breathing. Remember to:
Feel free to comment below with your favorite breathing tips, techniques, and tools.
Dr. Cheatum and Dr. Doize are Naturopathic doctors writing about health topics from a holistic viewpoint.