You have within you as a living, breathing being a powerful tool. Your BREATH. There have been extensive research conducted on the benefits deep breathing can produce. Almost all mindfulness practices involves some type of deep breathing. Acceptance Commitment Therapy, Dialetical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are some of the mental health modalities that incorporate mindful breathing. The conscious manipulation of the breath has been shown to stimulate and engage different parts of the brain and the nervous system. It can help with vagal toning (the Vagus Nerve activates the parasympathetic nervous system, having higher vagal tone means our bodies can relax faster after stress). It is truly a super cool resources we have been gifted with!
With deep inhalation, we activate our sympathetic nervous system, providing a small burst of adrenaline, increasing our heart rate. Then with a full exhalation, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing down the heart rate. This creates variability in our heart rate (HRV). The more flexible or variable it is, our arousal system becomes balanced and functions properly. Basically, when we practice mindful, controlled breathwork, we become better able to regulate our emotional responses to all the $*&% that we may experience.
The Power of Our Breath
GIVE IT A TRY:
Find a comfortable seated position. Sitting upright, lengthen your spine.
Close your eyes or soften your gaze downward to your knees or your feet
Place one hand over your abdomen and the other over the center of your heart.
First, notice your hands moving up and down as you breathe. You may notice your heartbeat in the other hand. Just observe. Connect with your breath just like this.
Now, take a slow, deep full breath in through your nose. Allow your breath to flow in through the back of your throat. You may hear yourself breathing, just like the ocean. Feel the breath traveling into your lungs, expanding your diaphragm, lifting your abdominal wall even more into your hand.
When you can't inhale anymore, pause for 3 - 4 counts.
Then with control and with your lips sealed, let out a slow exhale. Allow your breath to completely release from your body. Expel this breath through the back of your throat and out your nose as slowly as you can.
Repeat as many times as you'd like. With each round, see if you can find an even deeper connection with your breath, perhaps noticing the rate of your breath, the length of each inhale, or each exhale. Notice your heart rate change or any sensations in your body that may arise. I promise that at the end of these few rounds of slow, deep breathing, you will feel a little more relaxed, and perhaps a little more at peace.
I encourage you to try this quick little practice anytime during the day, or when you’re feeling a little stressed or anxious. Return to your BREATH. It's there for you. Always. Let it be your anchor to keep you grounded, rooted and connected. There's no harm in trying!