Just one breath: Change your stress level and so much more.

I know from painful personal experience that I can be overwhelmed and frightened by the circumstances of my life.  It took the illness and death of my husband and my own brush with life-threatening illness for me to learn the most basic lesson of self-care:

If I control my breathing, I shift my emotions and the sensations in my body.

Science has shown over and over again that we quite literally change the autonomic nervous system when we relax with the change in our breathing.  What does that mean in real terms?

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Decrease your heart rate
  • Improve your digestion
  • Improve the efficacy of your immune system
  • Decrease stress hormones

All this (and more) just by changing your breath?  Yes, this really works.  There are many ways to do this and each of us needs to discover a technique that works for us personally.

One simple breathing practice:

  • Bring your awareness to your breathing.
  • Notice the breath and how you experience it.  Do you feel the temperature at the openings of your nostrils, cool as you breathe in and warm as you breathe out?  What parts of your body are moving?  Does your abdomen expand on inhale and relax on exhale?  Are your ribs perhaps moving out as you breathe in and letting go as you breathe out?  Are you breathing through your nose, your mouth, or some combination of the two?
  • Intentionally slow down your breath, exerting as little effort as possible.
  • Take 5 slow and easy breaths.

When you have completed 5 breaths, allow your breathing to return to normal and notice how