Thursday, 26 March 2009

Stressed? Overwhelmed?...............try this fast, simple, breathing technique....

The Exercise - This seems to work for most people - not all of course! I've put the exercise before the introduction because you may be in a hurry! If you can, find somewhere private - the loo is always good if nowhere else is available...........(........speaking from personal experience here........). First, place your right thumb on your right nostril, and flatten it, and your right forefinger and middle finger on the centre of your forehead. Breathe in through your left nostril and out through your mouth three times, elongating your out breath as long as you can. The in-breath should be a more normal length, or you may end up feeling dizzy. Then change sides. Just three each side. That's it. You will feel calmer, and more able to deal with your challenges. They may be the same but how you feel about them will have changed.

About Stress and Breathing.
You may be in a situation where your boss is making impossible demands, dead-lines are looming, perhaps the children need picking up from school, and just one more thing...........the imminent arrival of your in-laws for a month's stay the balance. Before, you felt energised by life's challenges, but now you feel overwhelmed. Your posture changes: your jaw and neck tighten, your shoulders hunch and constrict your chest, your breathing becomes shallow. Apprehensions flood your mind. You can hear yourself breathe. Time whizzes by.

Effectively, your body is going into an evolutionary response to danger - you are in the equivalent psychological state to being in the Savannah surrounded by possible predators! Your body is getting ready for being on high alert, where fight or flight may be your only options.
Unfortunately neither fight nor flight are appropriate responses for this sort of 21st century stress!

A calm body and clarity of mind are our most useful assets, and the key to attaining this state is via your breathing.
Breathing is a basic function, so fundamental, that unless you practise yoga or Pilates, or meditation, you probably do not give it a second thought.

And yet by making an intervention with your breath, you have the power to change your state of mind. You can make time slow down, you can clarify your thoughts and allow solutions to reveal themselves. You may just realise that things aren't that bad after all............ and all by changing your breathing pattern, from fast and shallow, to centred, balanced, and calm. Your posture changes from hunched and defensive, to more upright and open, and all your natural functions from your nervous system to your digestive system are optimised.

Did you know for instance that a healthy body excretes more than 70% of it's waste products by breathing? So if you think about the consequences of shallow, tense breathing it must be that more of your waste stays in your body........and that way lies ill-health.

As a Pilates teacher, part of my job is to teach people to breathe! And as a therapist I often deal with people's phobias: panic breathing is a symptom of phobia and by treating the breathing response, the phobia often diminishes. I intend to share more of what I have learnt on the subject in later blogs...........but this little anti-stress exercise is one that I learnt about twenty years ago from a guy called Trevor da Silva, who was a health, fitness and stress release specialist. It's one of many yogic breathing methods.

I love this exercise because it is simple to remember, and engenders calm within a couple of minutes.........I was even able to make the most of my mother-in-laws stay!
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