By Reem Abdulrahman Jassim al-Muftah
What do you do around 20,000 times a day? The answer is…breathe! Breathing is actually complicated and affects all parts of our bodies although we do it subconsciously. Yes, the act of breathing is automatic to us but we can definitely improve it to improve our overall wellbeing. As you keep reading, I will be explaining four techniques that are said to improve you mental and physical health. Now stop, focus and start breathing deeply, slowly, in with your nose and out with your mouth.
For muscle tension, the following technique is to be done first thing in the morning, so as soon as you are up so that you can reduce and minimise muscle tension throughout your day.
1. Stand up straight. Bend forward from your waist. Slightly bend your knees. Let your arms hang down.
2. Inhale slowly and deeply. Return to your original position by slowly rolling your body up. Lift your head last.
3. Exhale slowly as you are returning to your original position.
4. Stretch your muscles slightly and repeat 2 times.
For side pain, the following technique is for those who are active and still experience diaphragm spasms such as muscle cramps due to accelerated breathing from exercise. Belly breathing helps reduce the stress from the ligaments that support the diaphragm.
1. Lie down on the floor. Place your hand on your stomach. Inhale. Exhale. Make sure your stomach is rising and not your chest. If you are breathing form your chest, adjust your breathing to possibly make it deeper to feel it in your belly.
2. While exercising, especially running, keep breathing deeply and take a very deep breath and forcefully exhale every once in a while, pushing all the air out of your lungs.
3. As you exhale, drop your shoulders, shake out your arms, and relax.
4. Take another deep breath and continue your run.
For increased energy, the following technique is called the ‘bellows breath’ and practiced to stimulate your diaphragm, signalling the body to become more alert. This practice is also considered the ‘stimulating breath technique’ which is considered a caffeine-free way to give your mind and body that extra boost that you look for in your morning coffee.
1. Sit up tall. Relax your shoulders.
2. While keeping your mouth closed, take quick breaths, inhaling and exhaling quickly through and out of your nose. Continue this for 10 seconds.
3. Take a 30 second break to breathe normally again and repeat 4 times.
For relaxation, the following technique is used to relieve ourselves from the daily stress we all deal with. A lot of us think that by being lazy, sitting on the couch or playing on our phone is relaxation but we have got it all wrong. We need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response, the physical state of deep rest that helps us combat stress and react to it differently, physically and emotionally. We can naturally and subconsciously adjust our rate of breathing, heart rate and even blood pressure! Focused belly breathing increases the supply of oxygen to our brains and stimulates a state of calmness.
1. Smile. Imagine smiling inwards from your eyes too. Release the tension in your shoulders.
2. Imagine holes in the soles of your feet and as you inhale, imagine hot air flowing through these holes moving slowly up your legs, through your belly and gradually filling your lungs.
3. Relax your muscles as the hot air moves through them, up your entire body.
4. As you exhale, reverse it and imagine you see hot air coming out the same holes in your feet.
5. Repeat throughout the day whenever you need to calm down or relax.
There are serious benefits to deep, focused and mindful breathing. Try out the techniques above and let me know what you think. Happy breathing!
*The author is a wellness advocate and influencer @keys2balance.
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