Our health and wellness is dependent on many elements; however, relaxation through breathing is the unsung hero. Shallow breathing is a typical stress response, and hyperventilation can prolong anxiety and stress. This is because stress often causes shallow breathing and in turn, shallow breathing then sustains higher levels of stress. One of the most effective ways to break the cyclical state of stress is to induce relaxation through breathing.
Abdominal relaxation breathing techniques can soothe the nervous system and encourage health benefits such as reduced blood pressure. Just ask our Wellness Advisor, Sharon Kolkka, who used relaxation breathing techniques as a manual override for the stress response she experienced after slipping over and fracturing her wrist.
Whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive on the mountain, Sharon was in an enormous amount of pain. She knew she had two choices: to focus on the pain or focus on the breath.
Harnessing her years of practising Qi Gong and meditation, Sharon focused her mind on deep diaphragmatic breathing. When the ambulance later arrived, the paramedic was in such disbelief about the numbers showing on his monitors.
As a woman in her 50’s just sustaining a significant injury, Sharon had a heart rate of 42bpm, blood pressure of 100/65 and 100% oxygen saturation. He said that he would never have believed it if he hadn’t seen it for himself.
The power of breath is truly remarkable and can help overcome a number of stress-related situations.
Physiological impacts of abdominal breathing
When a person is relaxed, their breathing is nasal, slow, even and gentle. Deliberately mimicking a relaxed breathing pattern calms the autonomic nervous system, which governs involuntary bodily functions.
Some physiological impacts of abdominal breathing include:
- Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
- Reduced amounts of stress hormones
- Reduced lactic acid build up in muscle tissue
- Balanced levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood
- Improved immune system functioning
- Increased physical energy
- Feelings of calm and wellbeing
The reality is that learning how to relax can be as simple as practising relaxation breathing.
How to practice abdominal breathing
Try this simple breathing exercise for relaxation.
With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the belly rises and so the diaphragm (not the chest) is drawn down to create an inflation of the ribcage and the lungs. Then release slowly, and repeat.
Breathing well and deeply takes practice. Spend some time learning the abdominal relaxation breathing technique to soothe the nervous system and increase the supply of blood and nutrients to your muscles and bones.
The ability to control your breath will give you a wonderfully simple yet effective tool to achieve relaxation when things feel overwhelming.
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