Breathing Practices for Relaxation

| By Jodi Horton

Caregiving or being with a dying loved one is at times, very stressful, and finding simple ways to cope can ease the difficulties. Breathing practices offer an accessible way for any individual to find a moment of peace. woman sitting alone

Normal unconscious breath is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. Breath is also readily available to conscious control. Because of this it provides a link between our conscious mind and other aspects of the human system: anatomy, physiology, emotional states, and our deeper spiritual potential.

All movements, including breath, are related to muscular action. Inhalation is initiated as a result of the contraction of the intercostals muscles and the diaphragm. Exhalation is a result of relaxation of the muscles responsible for inhalation.

As we increase the awareness of body, we can begin to improve our patterns and better regulate the function of all of our systems. The quality of the breath is important. It expresses the state of our physical, mental, and emotional being.

Engaging in a regular breath practice offers multiple benefits for the individual. A breath practice can increase relaxation; provide a decreased, steady heart rate; offers a deepened, slow respiration; gives greater calm; and provides greater access to easeful breathing thus contributing to a sense of more control over a situation.

Here are three favorite breathing practices recommended by Casa’s education coordinator, Marianne Schloss.

Ocean breath

This a recommended breathing practice from yoga. To perform an ocean breath, as you exhale and inhale, make an “haaahh” sound.

Segmented breath

The technique of segmented breath is to divide your breath into segments. Upon inhalation, divide the breath into four segments by sniffing. Hold a few seconds, and then as you exhale, divide the breath again into four equal segments.

4-7-8 breath

This technique is recommended by integrative health expert Dr. Andrew Weil. Watch this video for a demonstration of the 4-7-8 breath.

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