There is no question that our mind and breath are interconnected. Notice how when you are fearful, anxious or stressed your thoughts tend to be quick, jumbled and negative, and your breath tends to be fast and shallow. Conversely, when you are in a state of calm aliveness, your mind tends to be calmer and focused, and your breath is centered, slower, and calm.
Fortunately, we can use this information on the mind-breath connection to our advantage. By learning to control our breath in a certain way, we can help calm our minds and bodies alike. As recent studies have shown, slow, mindful breathing is a great stress relief tool. It can help calm down our sympathetic nervous system and reduce anxiety and insomnia. There are several controlled breathing exercises one can use during stressful moments as well as on a regular basis to feel calmer and more focused. I incorporate controlled breathing exercises in all my mindfulness and EFT/Tapping sessions; they are useful in helping my clients feel grounded and present.
One breathing exercise I use consistently is called the transformational breath or long exhale exercise. It involves inhaling through the nose for a count of four and exhaling through your nose (or mouth) for a count of eight or more. The counting does not need to be precise, as long as the exhale is a lot longer than the inhale. The prolonged exhale is key to calming down the sympathetic nervous system.
Recently, I have experimented with adding visualizations to the transformational breath technique. I have found that for those of us who are visual learners, the visualizations have the added benefit of taking our mind off our thoughts faster. Here are five simple visualizations you can try with the transformational breathing technique:
- Mountain breathing: Visualize breathing up one side of a magnificent mountain while you inhale and breathing down the other side on your exhale. Feel yourself becoming grounded and rooted in the earth and standing tall like a mountain.
- Fountain breathing: Imagine your breath as the control of a fountain of light that rises up from your feet to the crown of your head. As you inhale, the light rises up, and as you breathe out, the light goes back down. Visualize any color or light that feels calming or joyous to you.
- Balloon breathing: With every inhale, imagine your belly expanding like a balloon, and with every exhale visualize the balloon deflating. This method also encourages deep, belly breathing, which is beneficial for stimulating the relaxation response. If you are a beginner, try this exercise lying down.
- Wave breathing: Imagine your breath as a gentle wave receding into the ocean with every inhale, and splashing onto a beautiful shore with every exhale.
- Earth and Sun breathing: As you breathe in, imagine your breath coming up from the center of the Earth. Draw the energy up into your body through the bottom of your feet to the top your head. As you reach the top, imagine the sun shining on your breath. Now breathe out from the crown of your head, feeling the sun’s warm rays as they illuminate your entire body.
If you would like to learn more about different breathing techniques and how they can help you relax, focus, and reset, please contact me for a free consultation!