Relaxation Breathing

Our breathing directly reflects the level of tension we carry in our bodies. Under tension, our breathing usually becomes shallow and rapid, and is high in the chest. When relaxed, we breathe more fully, more deeply, and from our bellies.

It's tough to be tense and breathe from the abdomen at the same time. These two exercises can help change your breathing patterns. Practice them and you will be able to achieve a state of deep relaxation in a short time.

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Just five minutes of practicing abdominal breathing or the calm breathing exercises generally induces a deep state of relaxation.

Abdominal Breathing Exercise

Note the level of tension you are feeling right now; then place a hand on your abdomen below your rib cage. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose into the 'bottom of your lungs. In other words, dispatch the air as low as you can. If you are breathing from your belly, your hand will actually rise. Your chest will move only slightly, while your abdomen expands. In abdominal breathing, your diaphragm - the muscle that separates your lung cavity form your abdominal cavity - moves downwards. In doing so, it makes the muscles surrounding the abdominal cavity push outwards.

When you have taken in a full, deep breath, stop for a moment and then exhale slowly through your nostrils. You can also exhale though your mouth, depending on your preference. However, just make sure to exhale completely. As you exhale, let your whole body go.

You could visualize your arms and legs going loose and limp, something like a rag rag doll.

Do ten such slow, full abdominal breaths and try to keep your breathing smooth and regular, without gulping in a big breath or letting your breath out all at once. It will help to slow down your breathing if you slowly count to five on inhalation and then slowly count to five on exhalation. Don't forget to pause briefly at the end of each inhalation and exhalation. Count from ten down to one, backwards, one number with each exhalation.

The process should, ideally, be like this:

Slow inhalation… pause…slow exhalation (count '10')

Slow inhalation …pause…slow exhalation (count '9), etc.

If you begin to feel lightheaded when doing abdominal breathing, pause for 10-15 seconds, and then begin all over again.

Extend this exercise if you want to, doing two or three 'sets' of belly breathing. However, remember to count backwards from ten to one for each set - each exhalation counts as 1 number. Just do five full minutes of abdominal breathing to see a pronounced effect in reduced anxiety or early symptoms of panic. However, some folks prefer to count from 1 to 19. Feel free to do what suits you.

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