April 15, 2012
What’s free, shows up with no effort on your part, and you can’t do it ‘wrong’? Drumroll…your breath! Begin to pay attention to it and you’re going to reap some benefits. Investing even a few minutes a day into attending to your breath can improve your energy level, reduce anxiety and panic attacks, and
increase mental clarity. Awesome for falling asleep too!
I am absolutely passionate about this! My experience is that it’s almost physiologically impossible to stay tense when I remember to notice how my body is feeling, encourage myself to relax and drop my shoulders, and then practice this technique. After years of practice, it has become my automatic
I know I’m not telling you something you haven’t heard before. I’m hoping this may be the 250th time that you’ve heard it, which might result in pushing you over the edge so that you give the following exercise a try. This belly breathing technique is from Andrew Weil. I’ve been using it for many, many years.
I just timed it. It took 90 seconds to read the exercise and 56 seconds to do it. Granted, it will take a few minutes longer the first few times, because it’s foreign. So if you have 5 minutes to spare, do it before you click on the next email. If you don’t, I hope you’ll mark this email as unread and come back to it when you do. And let me know what you think.
Breathing strongly influences mind, body and moods. By simply putting your attention on your breathing, without even doing anything to change it, you move in the direction of relaxation. There are many worse places to have your attention—on your thoughts, for one, since thoughts are the source of much of our anxiety, guilt, and unhappiness. Get in the habit of shifting your awareness to your breath whenever you find yourself dwelling on upsetting thoughts.
The single most effective relaxation technique I know is conscious regulation ofbreath. I will teach you a yogic breathing exercise I give to most of my patients. It is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment, and can be done anywhere.
Although you can do the exercise in almost any position, to learn it I suggest you do it seated with your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your
tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this feels awkward.
First, exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, while you pull
your belly in to get all the air out.
Next, close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. As you breathe in allow your belly to expand first and then allow your lungs to expand.
Next, hold your breath for a count of seven.
Then, exhale completely through your mouth, making a quiet whoosh sound to a count of
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for
a total of four breaths.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is. If you have trouble
holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.
This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Its benefits are subtle at first but gain power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day. You can’t do it too frequently. Do not do
more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths.
Excerpted from Andrew Weil’s book, Natural Health, Natural Medicine.