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Breathing is the doorway between the things happening in your body that you can control consciously and the things you have no control over. It’s effects on your health will be widespread, for good or bad.
By taking conscious control over your breathing, you can switch your automatic body functions from a fight or flight state (stress response), to a rest, digest & repair state (relaxation response).
Because breathing exercises help with stress, they can be helpful for stress related conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and digestive system disorders.
The key is to take control of your breathing when you can, but don’t overcomplicate the matter. Just make sure that your breathing is slow, deep, even, and quiet.
I find the best time to practice is right before bed. Set your alarm 10 minutes early in case you fall asleep. If you do, hit the snooze button, but practice your breathing instead of going back to sleep. Other good times to practice are a few minutes before meals, and when you’re feeling stressed out.
Do a quick mental check to make sure you’re not tensing any of your muscles, especially your jaw muscles. Push the tip of your tongue gently against the roof of your mouth to prevent jaw clenching.
Focus on exhaling all the air from your lungs entirely, don’t just try to force more air in. You move about 5 times as much air while consciously breathing deeply as when breathing unconsciously.
Make sure the muscle that’s working is the diaphragm (belly comes out on the inhale, in on the exhale) as opposed to the neck and shoulder muscles. This is the time to let those muscles relax.
Recommendations are typically to practice 10-20 minutes a day, but even as little as a single breath cycle will be helpful. Especially if by doing so you create a habit to do it frequently.
Getting regular chiropractic adjustments can help assist this process by improving the mechanics of the spine and rib cage, which helps the body breathe more efficiently. Adjustments also help push the body toward a parasympathetic state (relaxation response) and improve heart rate variability.
Breathing exercises can help alleviate nausea during pregnancy. The formula used in studies simple: Inhale for a count of 3, hold for a count of 3, and exhale for a count of 3. Repeat this cycle 3 times.
An app I like for guided meditation is called Headspace. The first 10 lessons are free and will give you a good foundation. You can watch them over again as you like. Another free app that several patients have told me about is called Insight Timer. There is a great deal more content with this app, and different exercises for different purposes.