Sooner or later, you will feel depressed or anxious. You know what “tired” feels like. There are many ways of treating these feelings, from exercise to meditation to a long vacation on the beach. You may not realize that you have an inexpensive remedy in your own hands. It’s your Breath.
Your breath has amazing power. Every time you slow it down, you calm and soothe your nervous system.
How does slower breathing help? In stressful times, you breathe too rapidly. This leads to a build up of oxygen in your blood and a decrease in carbon dioxide. This imbalance causes a change in your blood’s pH level. When this occurs, your body can exhibit muscle twitching, nausea, irritability, lightheadedness, confusion and anxiety.
Your breath can be a powerful ally in coping with temporary physical and emotional states -- whether you’re sad over an argument with a friend, apprehensive about an upcoming job interview or exhausted after a tough day at work.
Each of these conditions responds best to a “special breath.” To calm anxiety, you can lengthen your exhalations. To alleviate fatigue, lengthen your inhalations. To lift yourself out of an emotional pit, it’s most effective to equalize the lengths of your inhalations and exhalations.
If you want your breath to work for you, it’s a good idea to practice. Spend some time with your breath (when you’re in a funk). Learn to watch its movements and tendencies.
When you first try to look at your breath, it will feel odd. Your breathing is so habitual that you’ve probably never given it much attention, and therefore you have a little sense of the subtle and not-so-subtle ways it can change. If you continue to watch it, you will begin to notice many different dimensions to the feeling of it.
You’ll probably notice that watching the breath immediately initiates a chain of changes.
First, it slows down. As it smoothes out, the space in the body increases.
When you breathe, you expand only a portion of your belly/diaphragm. Often, breathing is restricted and shallow. It should be deep and full.
To experiment with “breath,” do the following: lie on your back on the floor. Put your fingertips on your lower belly and try to direct a few inhalations into that space. You want to expand your belly each time you do this. Do this a couple of times to get in practice.
Sometimes, just watching and expanding your breath can have a positive influence on your energy level or mood.
How will you know if you’re overdoing it? If you’re feeling pain -- STOP; that’s your cue. Your breath possesses an innate intelligence. Learn to trust its message and all will be well.
Once you're settled, you’re ready to try one of the specific exercises to counteract anxiety, fatigue or depression.
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