“Let go of the battle. Breathe quietly and let it be. Let your body relax and your heart soften. ” ~ Jack Kornfield.
Have you ever seen the bumper sticker “Just Breathe” – and in that moment realized your breath was so constricted you were hardly breathing at all? I have...
One morning stands out for me. I discovered on the school run that one of my three boys was meant to take some "home-baking" to school that morning. Unfortunately my brain was already on autopilot, because I was obsessing about a problematic situation I had to deal with later on in the week.
I took a quick detour to our local supermarket, wondering what I would do if the grocery shop wasn't open – I was feeling quite stressed at this point. As I hurried through the car park I encountered this bumper sticker, and in that moment I realized I was holding my breath and immediately took in a deep breath. What a relief to consciously breathe and become more present.
If you have experienced moments like this, chances are your thoughts were in the future (like mine), or in the past. Not only are we missing out on the present moment, by getting caught up in concerns and worries we have no control over, we also have to cope with the painful emotions it brings up. E.g. sadness, regret, anger, anxiety, overwhelm, stress ....
The exciting news is your breath is pretty much hardwired to your emotional state of mind. So, how you breath can positively affect how you're feeling.
LETS LOOK AT HOW YOUR BREATHE CAN BENEFIT YOU
♥ IT CAN REDUCE YOUR ANXIETY
Do you breath from your chest or your belly? The reason I ask is because upper chest breathing is associated with anxiety and stress. Whereas, breathing from your abdomen induces calm. To find out how you breath, place one hand flat on your chest, and put your other hand flat on your stomach. Take several slow, deep breaths. Notice the movement of your hands. Which hand moves the most as you breathe in?
If most of your breathing was in the chest then this has become a habit you have developed over your lifetime. The good news is what you have learned, can be unlearned. In fact you were designed to breath from your belly. If you have ever watched a baby sleeping you will see their entire belly inflate.
To breathe into your belly, put your hands on your abdomen and inhale through the nose, allowing your belly to fill up like a balloon. Feel your abdomen rise. Then let it go. And repeat....
♥ IT CAN CHANGE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH PAIN
Your brain is amazing! Everyday it sorts and categorizes the data you unconsciously provide. And even more incredible is how it recognizes and automates all of your repetitive behaviors and reactions. From practical tasks like driving a car, to an increase in heart rate at the sight of a spider.
So what does this have to do with pain? As with the learned fear response to spiders, your brain also records your responses to pain. If your breathing becomes shallow and you tense up repeatedly with chronic pain or an injury then your brain assumes you are in danger. The more often this happens the stronger the programming.
Eventually the pain or even the thought of pain unconsciously evokes the fear response, flooding your system with cortisol and exacerbating your suffering.
And as Dr. Jared Edward Reser explains your brain now associates this area of your body (for example, your back) with the fight or flight response. So when you become anxious over something unrelated, you are likely to experience tension in your back.
As with anxiety you can begin to reprogram your brain. Here's how:
Imagine you are directing your breath into and around the area of pain.
With each out breath imagine relaxing more deeply into this part of the body.
Keep your focus on your breath. If your mind wanders to thinking, gently guide it back to the area you are focusing on. (You are not wanting to get caught up in analyzing the pain, just observing it as you breathe in and around it).
You are not trying to get rid of it or alter it in anyway. You might find this difficult in the beginning if you are used to pushing away your pain. Be patient with yourself.
♥ IT CAN HELP YOU GET TO SLEEP MORE EASILY
Try this simple breathing technique for getting to sleep at night, when you wake up during the night, or any time during the day when you want to fell calmer.
Breath in through the nose for the count of 4
Hold the breath for the count of 7
Breath out through the nose or mouth for the count of 8.
Repeat 4 times. And gradually build up to 8 repetitions.
Here's simple video demonstration by Dr Weil. He suggests doing this first thing in the morning, and before going to sleep, to retrain your unconscious breathing habits.
If you want to change your relationship with chronic pain or the debilitating effects of anxiety and stress, then please call me for a Free 15 minute consultation. We can talk about what is going on for you and I can answer any questions you might have. If I am with a client I will get back to you as soon as I can.
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