Don't forget to breathe

One of the most important relaxation techniques that I teach my clients is deep breathing. This is perhaps the easiest, cheapest, and most convenient way to help alleviate stress and anxiety. Just think about it. You're always breathing but most of us don't breathe properly. We do what is called shallow breathing.

I have found myself plenty of times, especially when I'm stressed, angry, or concentrating that I was barely breathing. I was even holding my breath. If I then realized this, accepted that I was slowly self- suffocating, took a moment and did a few very deep, slow belly breathes (that is breathing from the belly or giving yourself Buddha belly) I immediately feel better.

It's nothing short of a miracle. Breathing equals feeling better. Imagine coming off those meds, realizing that all you need is breath. I first learned about deep breathing in my early 20s when I was trying (one of the many times) to quit smoking. When I got the dreaded "nic-fit", I would take a couple of very deep breaths. I would breathe in until it hurt slightly. After doing that, a couple of times I no longer felt the desire to smoke.

Now, the freedom of nicotine might not have lasted for long, at first. However, over time and with consistency, the yearning for a cigarette decreased and then disappeared. That was how I quit smoking, more than a few times.

Now I use deep breathing more often at home, in particularly on a rainy Saturday afternoon around my precious. And in my cubicle at work. Sometimes I may have to go into the lavatory, find a cozy stall, close my eyes and breathe. It's like a mini-toiley meditation. And it works! When it comes to keeping my anxiety under wraps, I have no pride. And neither should you. Here are a few ways that deep breathing helps our body and mind.

1.) Increased energy. Oxygen travels on the hemoglobin in your red blood cells and enhances nutrient absorption and increases metabolism. 2.) Less stress. Extra oxygen has proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure while easing muscle tension. 3.) Better digestion. Most harmful bacteria that live in the gut and cause a host of digestive issues are anaerobic or die in the presence of oxygen. When there is more oxygen traveling in the blood through your digestive system it helps to hasten the breakdown of these harmful gut flora. 4.) Improved sleep. Deep breathing calms the central nervous system and helps quiet the mind. 5.) Detoxifies. The respiratory system is designed to release up to 70% of toxins stored in the body. 6.) Strengthens the heart & lungs. Deep breathing is like organ exercise. 7.) Boosts mood. Breathing helps to induce serotonin one of the pleasure neuro- chemicals.

Deep breathing is also known as pranayama an Aryuvedic term for breath and life. It is a yoga breath and is vital to life. It means "vital life force" in Sanskrit. This doesn't mean we should limit its use to yoga and hippies only. This is for everyone to know and its practice may very well save your life; at the very least, it will improve it.

Let's discuss how one should deep breath. We all know how to breath, well thank goodness it's involuntary or we'd be in BIG trouble! Deep breathing is very easy to do, can be done anywhere at anytime (even in those boring and pointless staff meetings).

1.) Breathe in by filling up belly (Buddha belly) and then lungs with as much air as possible while counting to 6. 2.) Hold in for a count of 3. 3.) Slowly release ALL air from within while counting to 6. It is best to breathe out through mouth and make a "swoosh" sound". However, you cannot do this in the staff meeting, unless you're in labor than go ahead and be as loud of a breather as you want! Poor thing. 4.) Repeat for 3 minutes twice a day. Of course, you can do this cycle as much as you like. There are no limitations.

Try this right after you're done reading this. Please. I bet you will love it and may even feel an oxygen rush. And it's ok to get hooked on breath. I implore you.

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 Kristen Peters is a Certified Holistic Health Practitioner & Certified Aromatherapist helping others "Be the Change".  She is a regular writer for Elephant Journal and Mind, Body, Green.  She lives in Raleigh, NC with her beloved husband, three children, two Chihuahuas, and old-man kitty.  A lover of hiking, meditation, gaming, yoga, mountains, horror, and raw foods she is an avid blogger.  Visit her site http://www.kristenpeters.net/ to learn more about Kristen's services and to download her free eBook "Five Small Changes that Will Have a Big Impact on Your Digestive Health".