Deep Breathing

Deep Breathing: A Complete Guide to the Relaxation Technique

By Becky Upham

Medically Reviewed by Justin Laube, MD

Taken on 03.16.222 from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/wellness/deep-breathing/

If you’re reading this, you’re breathing. What’s interesting about breathing is we do it regardless of whether we’re thinking about it — that is, this essential bodily function is subconscious or involuntary, according to the book Human Biology published by Thompson Rivers University. Yet we can also voluntarily control our breathing when we are conscious of our breathing patterns. For example, we can choose to control our breath by slowing it down or speeding it up, or by taking shallow or deep breaths.

How we breathe affects our health. By breathing more deeply or controlling our breath intentionally, we can impact our body in a number of positive ways, says Baxter Bell, MD, a former family doctor who now works as a certified yoga instructor and practices medical acupuncture. “For starters, we can lower our blood pressure and stress level, and think more clearly,” he says. Feeling calm and centered after deep breathing is common, and a breathing practice can promote a greater sense of well-being, he says.

If you’re interested in how deep-breathing works and how it can be beneficial, keep reading to find out more about this valuable health tool that requires no special equipment and can be accessed at any moment of your day.

What Is the Function of Breathing?

There are two phases of breathing: inhaling (taking breath in) and exhaling (breathing out). When you inhale, the diaphragm — which is the big, dome-shaped muscle located between your lungs and your heart — contracts and moves downward. This creates extra space in the chest cavity, and the lungs expand into it. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes as the amount of air in the lungs is reduced.

Breathing is essential to life because our bodies require oxygen to function; moving your muscles, digesting food, and even reading these words are all body processes that require oxygen. Breathing also helps the body get rid of carbon dioxide, which is created as a waste product of these processes.

What Is Deep Breathing?

Controlling the breath can be part of a yoga or mindfulness practice, but breath-focused meditation doesn’t have to be deep breathing, says Dr. Riehl. “Some yoga breathing can be similar to diaphragmatic breathing, but it can sometimes be very different. For example, [for] some breathing patterns in yoga, you are supposed to keep your mouth closed,” she says. In diaphragmatic breathing or deep breathing, you typically are encouraged breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, she says.

“Breath-focused meditation can be an entry point of bringing you to a mindful place, accepting the present moment for what it is. Your breath is the one true thing that is present in the moment — you can’t breathe ahead, and you can’t breathe backwards,” says Riehl.

“In meditation or guided relaxation, oftentimes the practice will begin with an awareness of your breath as you breathe in and out, but you might not practice deep breathing or change anything about your breath pattern,” she says.  

“It might just be an invitation to pay attention to or notice: Are you breathing quickly or slowly? Is it shallow or deep? That aspect of mindfulness or starting a meditation is a little bit different from intentionally practicing diaphragmatic breathing,” says Riehl.

 Downsides of Shallow Breathing

“Stress can shift our breathing,” says Riehl. “We can become shallow breathers in the face of stress or tension.”

This usually has to do with our body’s sympathetic arousal, which can be activated in times of stress, she says. This is also known as the “fight or flight response,” and the release of hormones can drive up our breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure, says Riehl. This response prepares the body to survive a real or perceived threat, so whether there’s a car swerving at you or you’re going to talk to your boss about a raise, the body’s sympathetic system responds similarly, as an article published in July 2021 in StatPearls notes.

Shallow breathing can lead to physical tension in different parts of your body, including your shoulders, jaw, hands, or back, she says. “That tension also is associated with increased GI distress. Overall, it can have a snowball effect — stress might trigger more shallow breathing, and then the physical effects can lead to more stress,” she says.

 Abdominal vs. Chest Breathing

We’re all born as deep breathers, says Riehl. “Think about a sleeping infant. Their little bellies rise and fall slowly and peacefully — you can see that really clearly,” she says.

When we move out of infancy and begin to move and run around more, we shift from being belly breathers or deeper breathers to breathing from our chest more, says Riehl.

Chest breathing still gets the job done of moving the air through our lungs, but the breath tends to be shorter and more shallow, says Dr. Lin. “For most of us, when we’re engaged in our everyday breathing, we’re just breathing using the upper half or top third of our lungs. When you take a deep breath in, your chest is rising, but for most people, your abdomen is not moving at all,” she says.

Abdominal breathing starts in the nose and moves to the stomach as the diaphragm contracts, causing the belly to expand and the lungs to fill with air.

 Compared with chest breathing, abdominal breathing not only brings in more oxygen, but it’s also more efficient, because it pulls down on the lungs. The negative pressure that’s created results in more air flowing into the lungs.

Potential Health Benefits of Deep Breathing

A key benefit of deep breathing is that it can help manage stress, which is a contributor to many health conditions, says Bell. While research results on deep breathing vary, experts agree deep breathing is safe for most people to try.

Whether done alone, as a meditation, or in combination with a movement practice like yoga, this complementary approach may be worth trying if you are dealing with a health condition. For instance, deep breathing may help you manage or improve:

  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) Improves air circulation and quality of life with COPD and helps with hyperventilation, lung function, and quality of life in mild to moderate asthma
  • Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, which can cause dysphagia and breathing issues at advanced stages and migraine [headaches]
  • High blood sugar levels and oxidative stress, which contribute to disease progression, in type 2 diabetes
  • Recovery from COVID-19 because it can help boost lung capacity, improve diaphragm function, and lessen stress levels associated with the novel coronavirus

Riehl has witnessed the benefits of deep breathing among her patients with GI conditions, which include IBS and UC. The way the diaphragm moves in deep breathing can allow for a reduction in tension in the digestive tracts, she says. “This can aid digestion and help with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) symptoms, constipation, and diarrhea,” says Riehl.  

In terms of emotional wellness, the ability to employ deep breathing when you find yourself overwhelmed or overstressed can be very helpful in the way we feel and think. “The more stressed we become, the harder it can be for us to think clearly,” she says.

Though their origins are complex, mental health disorders are associated with high stress levels.

Often people who are facing chronic stress, which has gotten even more common since the pandemic, have their normal breath rhythm disrupted, explains Bell. “That imbalance could contribute to anxiety, insomnia, or any number of unwanted effects. By doing mindful breath exercises, they can start to rebalance their breath system,” he says.

Are There Any Health Risks Associated With Deep Breathing?

In the scheme of interventions, deep breathing is very low risk, says Riehl. “Sometimes people will say when they are learning diaphragmatic breathing that they can feel a little light-headed. That’s because they are putting more oxygen in their body than they are typically used to,” she says, and levels of carbon dioxide are lowered, notes MedlinePlus. It might make you feel different from how you typically feel when you breathe, but it’s not dangerous in any capacity, she adds. If you have any concerns or discomfort such as pain or excessive light-headedness when starting a deep breathing technique, consult your healthcare team.

How to Start Practicing Deep Breathing

You might plan to set aside time each day to practice deep breathing, or you can choose to do it whenever you find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed, says Riehl. Because deep breathing can be a natural sleep aid, doing it before bedtime can also be helpful.

“In those stressful times, you might even catch yourself holding your breath or gasping a little bit. If you can shift that through deep breathing or another relaxation technique, you can have a little bit more control of activating what’s called our parasympathetic system, or our body’s relaxation response. By doing that, we can bring things back to baseline,” she says.

A Simple Deep-Breathing Exercise for Beginners

Riehl regularly works with deep-breathing newbies, and she suggests the following exercise to get started.

Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Breathe normally; you’ll probably notice how the top hand is moving more than the bottom hand. Riehl says your goal is to shift that so that the top hand remains steady and the bottom hand begins to move as the belly rises and falls.

Allow your belly to be soft as you take a deep breath in through your nose. Counting to yourself can be helpful to get into a rhythm; breathe in through your nose to about a count of 4, she says. As you breathe in, the belly is going to rise very slowly and then as you exhale, the belly will fall. “Try to make your exhale last a second or two longer than your inhale,” says Riehl. “Practice that for 6 to 10 breaths; you don’t need to do this for 20 minutes if you’re new to deep breathing.”

Once you get comfortable with it, you can let go of counting if you want to, she says. “Just notice it takes a couple seconds to breathe in and for that belly to rise, and then a couple seconds to breathe out and for the belly to fall, aiming to have your exhale last just a little bit longer than your inhale.”

Slowing down and controlling breath during a difficult situation — whether you’re feeling anxious, have a flare-up of lower back pain, or something else — can make a real difference, says Bell. “It can give a sense of control in situations where we often feel out of control. It’s empowering to have something you can immediately put into action,” he says.

TELE-MENTAL HEALTH

TELEMENTAL HEALTH – INFO & OPTIONS

Because mental health care is not an option or a luxury.

Due to the recent coronavirus outbreak, I am currently offering both tele-mental health and in-office sessions. Meeting online is safe and secure with a HIPAA compliant Zoom platform.

  1. Before your appointment, please download the required tele-mental health paperwork  (even if you are an existing client and have filled out the initial paperwork).  I will link the paperwork below once it is ready.  IMPORTANT – DO NOT email the paperwork back to me as it will contain private and sensitive information. Together we will determine the most appropriate way to get the paperwork back to me.
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The Importance of a Breakdown

From one of my FAVORITE websites:  MINDFUL.ORG

“Human beings are experts at showing up for the demands of the world. We keep driving forward—for our boss, our parents, our partners, or even ourselves—trying to live up to what’s expected of us, as defined by those around us.

Until suddenly, one day, we break.

Experiencing a breakdown can be inconvenient, uncomfortable, and even frightening, but it comes with an important message. In this video from School of Life, philosopher Alain de Botton explains how breakdowns provide you with an opportunity to learn what you really need from life.”  Continue reading the article HERE

Watch the video here: 

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The 8 Essential Foundations of Mindfulness

Reblogged from Mrs. Mindfulness ~ Check out her blog!

The 8 Essential Foundations of Mindfulness

When building a house, the foundation is a crucial element. Without a stable foundation, all your hard work is at risk of cracking and crumbling down around you.

In mindfulness the attitude that you bring to your practice is your necessary foundation.  Get this part right and you can build your ability to relax, find mental clarity and abide in inner peace.

These eight foundations will create a strong stable foundation in your mindfulness practice.

1.  Non-judging

In mindfulness practice, aim to develop the attitude of an impartial witness to your experiences. If you spend some time paying attention to the thoughts that dart in and out of your mind all day, you may be surprised to see just how often you pass judgment about things, people and situations.

The mind tries to sort and file everything into neat compartments. I like, I dislike, I want, I am, he is, she is, good, bad and so on.

It does all this quickly and automatically, so flash judgments about all that we encounter become habitual, even automatic. Often, we’re not even aware we’re doing it, but this unyielding flow of judgmental thoughts makes it difficult to find any peace within ourselves.

To experience mindfulness, you need to become aware of the mind’s habit of judging and step back from it.

Suspend judgments, labels and categorizing. What does that mean? It means we simply see our judging thoughts as just that – thoughts. We don’t have to believe them or buy into them and we don’t take them all that seriously.

2.  Patience

If a young child finds a cocoon, he may be tempted to try to break it open in his eagerness to see the butterfly emerge.

An adult though, knows not to touch the cocoon. He knows it can’t help the butterfly—and in fact, it will sabotage its transformation.

The adult knows that the wise action is to have patience. To let things unfold in their own way, in their own time. With patience, the butterfly will eventually emerge. Likewise, with patience, your mindfulness practice will improve in time. There is no need to try to force it or rush it; we can simply allow the process of any kind of improvement to unfold.

There is no hurry to get anywhere or achieve anything— there is no goal or finish line ‘out there’ in the future. The goal is to be fully present, in the moment and to be fully engaged in only whatever is presenting itself in the here and now. Any idea of striving for some future goal will only impede your practice.

You may have come to mindfulness practice in the hopes to achieve certain results (like more happiness or health), but let go of these desires during your practice and simply allow this moment and where you’re at to be enough.

3.  Beginner’s Mind

Too often we let our thinking and beliefs about what we “know” prevent us from seeing things as they really are. If you’ve ever caught yourself tuning someone out while they were talking because you were already sure you knew better, then you know that attitude. You’re sure you’re right, so you’re really not giving their point of view a chance.

As they speak, instead of paying attention to their words, you’re forming your counter-argument. We’ve all done it, and when we’re doing this we’re not open. We’re rigid and closed-off.

In contrast, a beginner’s mind is open and receptive, willing to experience everything as if it were the first time. It does not try to guess what the other person is going to say or assume it already knows better. It reserves judgment. Try this next time you find yourself wanting to judge what someone is telling you: listen and think, ‘hmmmmm, isn’t that interesting?’

Likewise, when cultivating a beginner’s mind with our own thoughts and experiences, it opens us to beauty and richness of the present moment.

When being mindful, ‘listen’ with an open mind, free of expectations of what you think is supposed to happen. Allow yourself to experience what presents itself as if it were the first time, without expectations of what it should be like.

For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them. ― Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

4.  Non-Doing

Normally, we go through our daily lives and everything has a purpose. We do things to accomplish something, to get something or to go somewhere. This attitude is bred into us from childhood— to do things purposefully and have an outcome—but in practicing mindfulness this attitude can be an obstacle.

Mindfulness is unlike our other activities—it’s the opposite of doing. It’s non-doing. In a way it does take work and energy, but of a different kind.

Mindfulness is simply being. Being with ourselves and being in the moment—with whatever arises. When you take time out to practice mindfulness and make plans like ‘I’m going to get more relaxed now,’ ‘I’m going to manage my pain,’ or ‘I’m going to be a happier because of this, you’re already undermining the practice.

You’ve already set goals and made plans, you’ve already determined what you should be doing or where you should be—which is telling yourself the present moment is not okay.

When you’re practicing mindfulness it’s counter-productive to strive for any result in particular.

See if you can let go of that subtle desire for a better future. Instead, you simply start focusing on this moment, and accepting this moment just as it is.

5.  Acceptance

Acceptance is seeing things as they are in the present, and having an attitude of allowing life to be as it is. In mindfulness practice we cultivate acceptance by taking each moment as it comes and being with it fully.

We try not to impose our ideas about what it should be, or what we should be feeling, or what should be happening. Instead, we are just open to whatever is. We accept it—as is– because it is the now.

Having an attitude of acceptance in your daily living practice of mindfulness doesn’t mean you have to be passive. You can still take action or make changes. You just do it from a place of acceptance.

For example, if your car breaks down on a deserted road you can resist what is happening. You can cry, scream it’s unfair, or you may begin to panic. You can slam doors and kick tires. The reality is this, though: you don’t have a problem – the car has a problem. The car is no longer moving. That’s what is.

You also don’t have to resign yourself, sit down on the side of the road and do nothing.

You can recognize fully that you want to have the car fixed and get to your destination. But you can narrow your life down to the moment; accept what is, and take action from there. Maybe you call the NRMA or flag down another car, but you do it from a place of allowing instead of resisting.

During mindfulness or meditation practice, there may be all kinds of emotions, impulses and thoughts– both negative and positive. With an attitude of acceptance, you don’t resist them and you also do not cling to them. You allow them to be—whatever they may be. You’ll find that when you don’t resist impulses and feelings, they tend to subside more quickly.

6.  Non-Attachment

Imagine if you were holding onto a large balloon that was being filled up with helium. As it grows, it threatens to lift you off your feet into the air. Your first instinct may be to hold the balloon tighter and resist the tug, but the only way to truly free yourself of the struggle is to let go.

In mindfulness practice it’s essential to cultivate an attitude of non-attachment—the ability to simply let go of thoughts. As we pay more attention to what’s going on inside of our own heads, we begin to discover the mind often clings to, buys into and follows certain thoughts and feelings, or we may try to suppress or wrestle with them.

In mindful awareness, aim to simply watch thoughts and objectively observe them. Non-attachment means neither resist nor cling to thoughts. Think of your thoughts and feelings like little clouds floating through the vast sky of your awareness.

Observe them arising, floating through and then disappearing. There is no need to try to hold them back or control them. If you have trouble letting go of the thoughts, then observe your ‘non-letting go’.

As we learn to no longer attach to thoughts or feelings, over time they lose their hold over us. That is, we are able to choose whether or not to ‘play them out’ or simply let them go.

7. Curiosity

In your practice, aim to foster a sense of curiosity. How do you feel emotionally? What kind of thoughts are going through your head? What does your body feel like at the moment? What happens when you focus all your attention in the present moment? How does that change how you feel?

When we were children were had a natural curiosity about everything.  Children are born scientists who aim to explore, question and understand what’s around them.

Aim to take the attitude of a curious child. Note that this is a light and open attitude – not a serious or heavy one. For a wonderful mindfulness practice you can make it a habit to regularly ask yourself, “‘what’s going on inside me right now?’ and then take a moment to truly tune into your state of mind, body and being.

Whatever experience you notice, investigate it with a curious mind.

Curiosity doesn’t condemn. It simply watches.

8.  Present Moment Awareness

The secret of awakening into mindfulness is to be fully present in this moment and to unconditionally accept this moment as it is. That means to pay attention to only what is present now– just this breath, just this step, what you see and feel.

Welcome this moment as it is – go into it deeply. Mindful awareness can only be realized in the now. Time is a source of enormous noise making activity in the mind.

Take away time from the mind and it loses its hold over us and starts to become more still. Too often our minds have us caught up in planning for, and always looking for our fulfillment in the future. This idea that one day we’ll ‘make it’ when we get ‘there’ creates so much mental chatter.

We’re always chasing a happiness that is just around the corner. When it comes to the past, the mind constantly brings up all our old conditioning and history, judgments and resentments regrets and the whole story of ‘me and my life’- Also the source of much inner noise.

You can drop all of that in an instant by becoming immersed in your present moment experience.

Life is only ever happening in the now. Everything that’s going on, all of your experiences and thoughts and emotions are happening now. If you ignore the now, you are short changing your life. When practicing mindfulness – bring awareness to the present moment, whether walking, hugging a loved one, meditating or doing some mundane chore like the dishes.

Because the great majority of our mind chatter is derived from thinking about the past and future, you may notice that the mind becomes very still and calm, yet very much alive, when you’re living in the present moment. After all, you can only exist in one moment at a time— why waste any of them?

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.

– Eckhart Tolle

I hope these tips help you to discover and deepen mindfulness in your own life! I wish you all the best.

Love Melli

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