As you may know I love to lead a simple, relaxing life (don’t we all) so I thought I would kick off my blogging journey with some simple ways top get you into a relaxed state of mind – you might find some of these a bit surprising but they really do work. Anyway, sit back, relax and read on…
It’s the first thing we do when we enter this world and we work hard to ensure that we do it for a long time thereafter.
Breathing. It’s an action our bodies do every minute, of every day, without us paying much attention to. It seems simple enough. Inhale, exhale, allow the exchange of oxygen going in and carbon dioxide going out to happen.
But, what if you could manage so much more, with just a simple breath?
Stress and Breathing
Breathing is the new stress-ball. You remember those from the ‘80’s. Squeeze the little yellow ball when you’re feeling stressed and keep going until you don’t feel like killing someone anymore.
Well, now science would like us to put away our balls (sorry, couldn’t resist) and take a deep breath instead.
Our Body – Stressed Out
When a stress happens, be it a teenager not listening to us, or the guy in the Honda who just cut us off, or the constant stream of To-Do’s piling on top of us, day in, day out, our breathing pattern changes.
Instead of slow, deep breaths we start taking small, shallow breaths. We also start using our shoulders, rather than our diaphragm to breath and all of this, in turn, disrupts the balance of gases in our body, worsening our anxiety and physical symptoms to whatever stress is happening.
Menopause and Stress
One of the major reasons our bodies are going through so much change during menopause is because of our inability produce certain hormones – estrogen and progesterone in particular.
When the body is in synch our adrenal glands can take over some of this hormone production therefore diminishing some of the symptoms related to having low estrogen and progesterone levels.
These symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- And, bone density loss to name a fewBut, here’s the kicker, if we are suffering from adrenal fatigue this can impair our adrenal glands from doing this job and in turn send us into early menopause, as well as intensify our symptoms from menopause.
How do you fatigue your adrenals? Chronic stress. How to do you cope? Breathe.Yoga and Breath
Yoga has emphasized breathing for over 5,000 years, and for good reason. Michael Rudd, yoga instructor and owner of Open Space Yoga in Ladner, explains that yoga helps to bring our breath to the forefront. By linking the breath with the various postures performed in yoga it allows just regular ol’ breathing to become conscious breathing. This is important, Rudd explains, because when we are conscious of our breath we are more present, and when we are more “present” we are more fully aware of what’s happening around us right now, as opposed to what did happen, or what could happen.
Breathing consciously also has a biological effect on our mental, emotional and physical state. It accesses the cerebral cortex part of the brain that has a balancing and calming effect, especially on the nervous system. I guess this is why you never hear of a yogi going postal and losing it in traffic.
Breath and Anxiety
Danielle Veldhuis, Registered Clinical Counselor with Foundation Counseling in Tsawwassen, says that one of the first things she teaches her clients (who are struggling with stress and anxiety) are breathing techniques. She, too, has found that just the simple act of stopping to breathe and be mindful allows her clients to focus on relax, instead of worrying about the past or the future – both of which we have little to no control over but yet stress out about.
Veldhuis believes so much in the power of breathing that she likes to start and end each session with a focused breathing exercise.Breathing Exercises
If you want to stress-less and breathe more try these simple breathing exercises that Rudd recommends:
- Breathe in and out of your nostrils and deep down into your belly. Allow your belly to fully move and expand. Many people, especially women have been conditioned to hold the belly so tight and to never allow the belly to actually move. Keeping the core tight has its importance, but it also needs to relax as well.
- Hold your hands around the bottom of your ribcage. Holding the hands around the belly and breathing into the hands helps. This can be done seated or laying down. Thumb around the back with your four fingers wrapped around your front. Breath into your hands and feel the the rib cage expand in all directions. Visualize a balloon expanding at the bottom of the ribs, in all directions: front, back, sides, top and bottom. This helps us to fully breathe deep down to the bottom lobes of the lungs and helps the diaphragm to move. The diaphragm, in turn, massages the essential organs.
- Release your hands from around the ribcage and place one hand on your belly and the other on top of your chest. Close your eyes and breathe from your belly to the chest. Feel the breath fill the belly, rise up into your lower ribs and right up to the chest. Exhale from the chest down to the belly all while maintaining relaxed shoulders.
- Be more conscious of not chest breathing. High chest breathing doesn’t fully utilize the lungs. We call this stress breathing and it doesn’t use the primary muscles for respiration, instead it uses the secondary muscles and can cause a lot of neck and shoulder tension.