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Breathing Exercise

Purpose:
Retrains breathing to mobilize rib cage and reduce physical tension throughout the body. Also promotes mental/emotional relaxation, deeper sleep, improved energy levels, and decreased levels of stress.

Description:
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor or bed. Place one hand on your lower belly and one hand on your upper chest.

Breathe in VERY SLOWLY through your nose into your lower abdomen allowing it to expand outwards it all directions: forward, backward, and out to both sides. As you continue to breathe in, allow the breath to expand your middle chest and ribs, also in all directions. The upper chest will also fill with air, but should remain relatively quiet and relaxed. The upper chest and clavicles (collar bones) should not elevate at all, and should not move nearly as much as your abdomen and middle chest.

At the end of your inhalation, pause for a moment, and then exhale VERY SLOWLY through your nose. While exhaling, feel your rib cage gently collapsing inward, followed by your abdomen. Towards the end of the exhalation, gently pull your abdomen in to complete the breath.

Continue breathing like this for 3-5 breath cycles for a quick session or up to 20 minutes for deeper relaxation.

Tips:
Lying on your back is the easiest position for this exercise. As you improve, the exercise can be performed in any position.

Be patient. As with any new skill, retraining your breathing takes some practice. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is relaxation and decreased tension, so don’t try too hard.

Over time, try to gradually increase the length of time that you are inhaling and exhaling, performing it more and more slowly as your lung capacity improves.

Once you’ve mastered the technique, you’ll be able to easily perform the exercise any time during the day, including while sitting, standing, walking, driving, waiting in a line, etc. and/or anytime you’re feeling anxious or stressed out.

Reps:
Perform this exercise for 3-5 breath cycles at least once per day. If your goals include reducing stress & tension, and/or to improve your sleep, then you should repeat the 3-5 breath cycles several more times throughout the day, as well as performing the exercise for 5-20 minutes while lying down in a comfortable position with your eyes closed, 1-2 additional times per day.

Optional Variation To Promote Deeper Relaxation and Sleep:

  1. Assume rest position of jaw: keep tongue up, resting lightly on the upper palate and behind the two upper teeth. Close your eyes, and take a moment to relax all the muscles in your body, especially the muscles of the face, eyes, and jaw.
  2. Rapidly exhale all the air from your lungs, through your mouth, with your lips in a pursed position,
    so that you make a “whoosh” sound.
  3. Inhale through your nose, as described above, for a count of 4.
  4. Hold for a count of 7.
  5. Exhale slowly, through your mouth, again making a “whoosh” sound, for a count of 8.
  6. Continue breathing like this for 3-5 breath cycles for a quick stress relief or up to 20 minutes for deeper relaxation.
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