Breathing Techniques to Help You Relax

If you struggle with relaxing and falling asleep at night, you are certainly not alone. Insomnia and sleep deprivation are reaching epidemic proportions in the United States and around the world. There are a number of sleep devices and medications that can be used to assist you in getting a good night’s sleep, but if you are one of those who are searching for a natural method then you might want to try one or more of these deep breathing techniques. [caption id="attachment_627" align="alignright" width="300"]Controlled breathing can be a life saver for those stressful situations Controlled breathing can be a life saver for those stressful situations[/caption] There is substantial anecdotal evidence that just ten minutes of controlled breathing exercises can help to lower your blood pressure and help to put you into a calm and peaceful zone from which you can more easily float off to sleep. Mastering these exercises is easy, and once you’ve learned them they can be done in bed as easily as at your desk or anyplace else where you are feeling anxious and out of control. The techniques that follow may offer you relief not only lying awake in your bed and staring at the ceiling, but also from other situations where stress is beginning to have a significant negative impact.
  1. Equal Breathing (Sama Vritti)
Breathing in and then out in slow equal counts can calm you down, increase your focus, and decrease your stress. This easy exercise consists of breathing in through your nose over a count of four and then taking the same count of four to exhale. It is important that the breathing is done through the nose, as it increases the resistance of the breath.  The technique takes your mind off of whatever is bothering you and forces you to focus on your breath. As you master this technique you can extend the count to six or even eight counts per inhalation and exhalation.
  1. Abdominal Breathing
This technique is best before a stressful event that is making you feel out of control. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen and take in a deep breath through your nose. You want to pay attention to make sure that it is your diaphragm that is inhaling rather than your chest, and you want the breath in to be deep enough that you can feel it stretching your lungs. Try to do this six to ten times in a minute, restricting yourself to slow, deep breaths and continuing the exercise over a ten minute period.  This exercise has been shown to lower both blood pressure and heart rate.
  1. Progressive Relaxation
This easy exercise is extremely helpful for eliminating physical tension. Start by closing your eyes and first tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in your body for a few seconds each. Be methodical in your approach, starting at your toes and working your way up your body until you have done this with your neck, jaw, and even your eyes. While doing the clenching and relaxation, remember to take slow, even, deep breaths through the nose, holding the inhalation for a count of five while the muscles are tensed and then breathing out when releasing the muscles.    

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