The Breath and Stress
When we breathe in, we are activating the sympathetic (fight and flight) nervous system. When we breathe out, we are activating the parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous system. By increasing the ratio of time spent in relaxation, we relax the body. This sends signals to the brain that all is well.
By breathing regularly and smoothly we are sending signals to the brain that all is well. This results in reduced heart rate variability. Our heart beats with less variation of time and helps to induce calmness.
The 4-6 breath breathing pattern is an easy breathing pattern that helps many students to become calmer. If this causes you and discomfort in any way please do not practice it. Instead you can learn some of the relaxation exercises.
To practice the 4-6 breaths follow these steps
- Breathe in while counting to four seconds and breathe out while counting to six.
- When you have achieved a comfortable natural rhythm, breathe in and out as smoothly as possible
- To breathe smoothly, inhale the same amount of air at the beginning, the middle and the end of both the in breath and the out breath.
- When you have achieved a comfortable natural rhythm again, focus your attention on the point where the out-breath stops, just before the in-breath begins. I call this the bottom of the breath.
- Notice how it feels, each time the cycle of the breath returns there.
- Maintaining the rhythm and cycle of the breath, as you breathe in, focus your attention on the top of your head
- You may have to touch the crown of your head with your hand to focus on it, but once that is done you will have tuned in
- As you breathe out, focus your attention on the movement of your belly button as it moves in
- As the out breath finishes notice the bottom of the breath
- Repeat this cycle with each breath for a few minutes
- You will find that you become calmer
To assist in practicing this exercise I have added a youtube video that explains how to download, install the app, use it and analyse the results.
Let me know if any questions arise.