Even your breathing can work wonders when it comes to relaxing and relieving stress.
When you’re mentally or physically stressed, your body automatically functions on the sympathetic nervous system, the fight-or-flight response. This increases your heartbeat and leads to a fast and shallow breath.
Now, what happens when you start focusing on slow, deep breathing?
Your brain switches to the parasympathetic system, triggering the rest and digest response that tells your body to relax.
Here’s how you can try it out yourself:
Find a Comfortable Position
A lot of people think you need to sit nice and tall for breathwork, but that’s not necessary, especially if the upright posture is uncomfortable for you.
Sitting on a chair or lying down will work. Just make sure to put a pillow right below your shoulders if you choose to lie down. That ensures your head aligns with the diaphragm and allows good air passage through the neck.
Breathe With the Diaphragm
You need to learn how to use your diaphragm for efficient breathing. This expands the lungs and fills them adequately with air. It also helps with steady exhales, so carbon dioxide doesn’t accumulate in your body to cause fatigue.
Here is how to breathe with your diaphragm:
Place your hands on the ribcage and squeeze it.
Inhale and feel your hands separate apart as the ribcage expands. If you don’t feel your hands separating, that means you’re shallow breathing, using your chest.
As you exhale through your nose, you should feel your hands coming together.
The goal is to exhale through your nose, but if you find it hard, exhale through pursed lips.
Try Different Intervals
If you’re a beginner, follow a 4-7-8 breathing interval. This means you inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds—this is where the sympathetic nervous system switches off—and exhale for 8 seconds.
Keep in mind that breathing techniques vary depending on the purpose, and you can try out different methods until you find one you like. Just remember to engage the diaphragm all along, regardless of the interval layout.