Here’s a question. What’s the easiest and cheapest way to cultivate a state of relaxation? Well of course meditation, but what kind of meditation?
What many people fail to recognize is that they are in possession of a tool, so powerful, that it can help you to relax in under three minutes. And it’s right under your nose…literally.
I, of course, am talking about the ultimate in relaxation techniques – the breath and its ability to bring calm, insight, and peace to situations where a moment earlier, might have felt out of control.
Claudia Cummins takes a look at the breath as a means to relaxation in this recent Yoga Journal post. Whether practiced during yoga or as a stand alone discipline, according to Cummins, the type of breathing exercise depends upon the effect you are looking for. Cummins outlines several breathing exercises in her article.
MOVE THE BELLY WITH THE BREATH. When we are at ease, the diaphragm is the primary engine of the breath. As we inhale, this domelike muscle descends toward the abdomen, displacing the abdominal muscles and gently swelling the belly. As we exhale, the diaphragm releases back toward the heart, enabling the belly to release toward the spine.
KEEP THE UPPER BODY QUIET. During high-stress times, it’s common to heave the upper chest and grip the muscles in the shoulders and throat. When we’re at rest, the muscles of the upper chest remain soft and relaxed as we breathe, and the real work occurs in the lower rib cage. To promote this type of breathing pattern, consciously relax the jaw, throat, neck, and shoulders, and envision the breath sweeping into the deepest parts of the lungs as you breathe in and out.
BREATHE EASY. Although some breaths may be deeper or faster than others, when we’re relaxed, the alternating rhythm of the inhalations and exhalations feels like a lullaby—smooth, soft, and uninterrupted by jerks and jags. Consciously relaxing into this wavelike, oceanic quality of the breath deepens our sense of peace and ease.
Read about more breathing exercises to promote relaxation here.