Breathing for Health - Easy Does It!

by David O'Hara - Date: 2007-04-26 - Word Count: 823 Share This!

Breathing is in the air. You can hardly open a magazine or browse a health site on the web without finding an article about the amazing power of breathing, accompanied by the usual "quick and easy instructions". Breathe to relax, breathe to energize, breathe to fall asleep, breathe to live. You might start to think you can breathe to relieve just about any ailment.

The thing is, many of the claims are true. Clinical proof that slow breathing can lower high blood pressure has made headlines worldwide in recent years. And this is just one of many discoveries. Breathing also relaxes, relieves stress and anxiety, improves sleep and moods and much more. Scientific support for breathing as natural relief or cure for an amazing list of conditions is accumulating daily.

And why should it be a surprise? The connection between breathing and many of our other physiological processes has been recognized as long as human beings have walked the earth. "Take a deep breath" they always tell you in moments of great stress or panic. Breathing deeply and slowly calms the heart and nerves as surely as eating quiets a growling stomach. Breathing is a powerful healing tool.

So it's a real travesty that the usual "quick and easy instructions" that come with these articles are almost always either dead wrong, tedious, over-complicated or wrapped in excessive "therapy speak"! A typical example (actually taken from a leading health website) might go something like this: "Lie flat on your back, stand up straight or sit up straight in a chair… (all very relaxing postures, for sure!). Place your hand on your stomach and breathe in through your nose to a count of 5 while expanding your abdomen. Hold your breath for another count of 5. Pinch your left nostril closed and breathe out through your right nostril for a count of 10 while balancing your chakras… "

Okay, so I paraphrase a little, but you get the idea. What these instructions and many other similar examples always forget is that relaxation is the first prerequisite for breathing to be effective! The more relaxed you are, the greater the benefits. Aside from all the other absurdities, how can you be expected to relax while counting your breathing? Counting or timekeeping of any sort simply don't go together. You might as well be doing calisthenics!

The next most common mistake is unnecessary complication. Complicating factors include the various techniques of abdominal breathing along with gimmicks such as alternating nostrils, chanting or making other noises and calling for distracting visualizations or meditation.

This is all counter-productive. Breathing is natural and - if allowed to relax - it will come to us that way. (Some gurus like to claim that we've forgotten how to breathe. Well, thank you very much, but I'm still alive last time I checked!) Now I'm not criticizing any of these practices, per se. They can all be useful. I practice abdominal breathing myself. But for the uninitiated complications are the last thing they need. No wonder so many people may try breathing once, never to come back to it again.

So here are my recommendations for a simple, natural way to practice a therapeutic type of breathing that's proven to lower high blood pressure, induce deep relaxation, relieve stress and anxiety and improve sleep (and no counting allowed!):

1. Get as relaxed as possible. Listening to slow, gentle music can be very helpful, both to relax and to help keep your breathing regular without counting. (Choose your music carefully because the tempo and beat of the music will actually influence your breathing.)

2. Breathe in slowly and gently. Pause briefly. Breathe out for approx. twice as long as you took to inhale. Relax your entire body as you exhale. Let it go. You can almost feel the blood vessels in your chest area opening up. Pause again. Breathe in and continue the cycle.

3. As your breathing becomes more comfortable gradually slow the rate as far as possible within your comfort zone. Take your time. Always stay relaxed and maintain the 1:2 inhale to exhale ratio.

4. Continue for 15 minutes. Try to repeat daily or at least 4 times a week. Tip: You don't need to count. Just plant firmly in your mind: "exhale twice as long as I inhale". With this in mind you will always be in the right ballpark.

Optional: If you wish to make it more challenging you can inhale through your nose while gently expanding your abdomen. Then exhale through your mouth while relaxing your abdomen. This will probably come naturally anyway, without any special effort.

That's all there is to it. You will start feeling benefits such as deep relaxation and lower blood pressure immediately. Over time your breathing will continue to slow and these benefits, and more, will begin to stay with you throughout the day.

Perhaps if more people were to try it this way they would finally gain the incredible health benefits to be had with simple, natural breathing.

Related Tags: relaxation, stress relief, lower blood pressure, anxiety relief, healthy breathing

David O'Hara is a researcher and product developer in the field of natural health and blood pressure control.

Click here for more information on the simple and enjoyable way to relieve serious health problems like high blood pressure and improve your wellbeing with breathing =>

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