Ironically, the phrases,“it’s as easy as breathing,” and “it’s as natural as breathing,” often don’t depict reality. Using your breath effectively isn’t always easy or natural.
On the plus side, it’s not difficult to begin mastering your breath and using it to affect your mood, energy and the way other people perceive you.
WHO NEEDS THE LONG BREATH TECHNIQUE
- If you’re in the habit of holding your breath when you’re learning something new, you need this. Helloooo, this happens often in fitness training!
- If one of your goals in 2014 is to ‘push the envelope’ more often at work or some other endeavor, you need this. Learning or attempting something new causes stress, which can cause breath-holding or shallow breathing.
- If you’re trying to increase your flexibility in any body part, you need this. Muscles don’t release to allow more length unless you’re in “repair mode.” This mode only occurs when you’re using a full inhale/exhale pattern.
- If you’re generally stressed-out, you need this. It will help, I promise. Try practicing while you’re driving — it reduces traffic-jam tension. It’ll also help you fall back asleep when you wake up in the middle of the night.
- If you experience low-back, neck, shoulder or wrist pain, you need this. Using your breath to drop into “repair mode” will help to reduce your pain-pattern. It’s not a full solution, but it can help quite a bit.
LONG BREATH TECHNIQUE
- Lie comfortably on your back. Close your lips and slide the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth. Relax your jaw, but don’t open your lips.
- Breathe normally for 3 cycles, taking the air in and out through your nose. 1 in-breath and 1 out-breath = 1 cycle.
- On your next exhale, slow it down a bit and take your time. Your breath is allowed to take up time & space in the world. Draw your navel slightly inward to help you exhale a bit more air than usual. When it’s time to inhale, notice how you automatically draw in more air.
- On your next exhale, try to take a little more time to get the air out. Don’t be more forceful, simply slow down the process. Hollow out your belly a bit to push out a little more air than on your first exhale. On your next inhale, again, notice how your lungs draw in more air. Allow your ribcage to expand with your inhale and contract with your exhale.
- Continue this process of slowly lengthening the time and depth of each exhalation and each inhalation. Practice this pattern for up to 10 breaths, then go about your day.
- As you become comfortable with the Long Breath Technique, try incorporating in different positions — seated in a chair, standing, walking, etc.
The Long Breath technique can help you shake yourself out of stagnant breathing habits so that you’re using your full lung capacity. Long Breath calms your nervous system, which releases muscle tension and allows your mind to focus.
Feeling anxious? Try 3 Long Breaths.
Feeling scattered and unable to focus? Try 5 Long Breaths.
Having trouble sleeping? Try 10 Long Breaths.
Read more on breathing and stress from Harvard Medical School