Basic Breathing Exercise for Stress Management

breathing exercise

Depression, stress and anxiety can rob you of your presence of mind, ability to function productively, and even have lasting effects on your overall health. Relaxation is like a door that, once opened, can lead you to a stronger, healthier, and happier you.

It sounds cliche, but one of the best ways to relax the "fight or flight" response related to stress and anxiety is to concentrate on breathing. It's not just in the activity of breathing, it's the shift of focus to a mindful state, allowing sensational calm to override your emotional stress.

This is a simple breathing exercise that will help you find relaxation whenever you need it most. Light some incense, scented candles or warm some scented oils in a diffuser if you'd like. You may also choose to sit outside where you can smell the fresh grass, or feel the cool breeze and warm sunlight. If you are in the office or at school and you don't have the ability to prepare your area you can still shift your focus to help you relax. Breathing is one of the most portable relaxation techniques there is.

Sit in a comfortable place with your back straight, your head up, and your shoulders back to allow a clear passage. Close your eyes and inhale slowly through your nose. Feel the air travel into your chest, notice how your chest expands. Allow the scent to fill your senses if you are using aromatherapy. When your chest and abdomen are fully expanded, exhale slowly through the mouth. Feel how your chest deflates like a balloon, and the sensation of the air passing through your mouth, over your tongue and between your lips.

If you are in a private place, or doing this exercise with a friend, you may allow yourself to make a sound (such as an "oh", "hee", "hay", or "uh") and draw it out as you exhale. Feel the vibrations throughout your head, shoulders, back and chest. If you would like to use this time as an opportunity to pray, then you may wish to assign a power phrase instead of a sound, such as "Come, O Lord", or "Allah".

As you continue you may wish to focus on how the top your head lifts your neck from between your shoulders, and how your trunk lifts you from between your hips, lengthening and straightening your body. This image helps you open the airways even further. Visualization allows you to focus on aspects of your being rather than distractions of the mind, while controlled breathing helps slow the heart rate, which compliments relaxation.

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