“Just take a deep breath.” The last thing anyone wants to hear when they are upset, angry, or panicking. It is the mind’s equivalent of “relax” or “calm down.”
On the other hand, if you did take a moment to breathe, you might understand its true benefits. Instinctively, humans breathe from their diaphragm. If you ever look at a baby peacefully sleeping, you notice its tummy rising and falling in a slow, rhymthmic fashion. As we grow older though, particularly in fast-paced western society, our breaths grow shorter. Air barely makes it to our chest before it is already back on its journey out on the exhale. This causes a plethora of problems. Your body is feeling constantly rushed and pushed to its limit. There is no such thing as a moment of relaxation. It is not receiving the appropriate amount of oxygen that it needs. We are depriving our body of one of its basic necessities. The worst part is that our body becomes accustomed to this pattern after years of habit.
This is not to say it cannot be undone. The method I will be describing here is coined the “rectangle method,” but there are hundreds of different methods that all possess a similar goal.
First, you want to set yourself up in a comfortable position either sitting upright or laying on your back. If you would like, you can then place on hand in the middle of your chest and your other hand at the bottom of your rib cage directly under the first hand. This is optional, but you may use your hands as a guide during the exercise.
Then, once you’re comfortable, you can begin your breathing. You want to breathe in through your nose for a four -second count. While breathing in, you want to focus your attention to the breath and away from any intrusive thoughts or feelings. You should feel your diaphragm (bottom of your rib cage) inflating like a balloon while your chest stays relatively still. If you’re using your hands as a guide, the bottom hand should move further out than the top hand on your chest. Once you have reached a four count, hold your breath in for one second. Then, breathe out slowly for four seconds through your mouth. Your exhale should be just as long as your inhale.
So remember 4, 1, 4 as the count. I recommend not to do more than two to three minutes of practice in the beginning. If you do more and your body isn’t used to it, you can actually pass out from the surplus of oxygen. If you find that this works for you, you might want to set aside time to practice each day. I normally do it right before I go to sleep at night.
You will definitely notice the immediate benefits. This includes more oxygen through your body, relaxation, increased focus, and feeling more awake. Practice makes perfect.
– The Caring Counselor