Reducing Stress: Breathe to Heal

Mindful Breathing does three things; captures oxygen, provides focus and reduces stress.

by Michael Corthell

At a marina, not far from where I sit writing this article, a message is displayed on their roadside marquee. It says, ''EXHALE, You're Home.'' That says it all as far as our society's stress and health issues are concerned. People work, are all up tight and they feel that they cannot 'breathe' until they are on vacation. What has to happen is that we all have to learn to breathe mindfully to reduce their stress all of the time.

It is best not to wait until you must control your breathing.  Don't wait until you're extremely stressed out, in a panic or an arguement before minding your breath. Be prepared through practice.

''Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.''  
—L. Frank Baum, Author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Mindful, (controlled) breathing not only helps your body functioning its best, by lowering blood pressure, mindful breathing will promote feelings of calm and induce a relaxed state of mind that will help reduce the symptoms of stress.

The foundational method in mindful breathing is to just totally focus your mind's attention on your breathing, the inhale and the exhale. In and out slowly...breathe.

You can do this while you're in any position, but you should ideally be lying down or sitting in an easy, comfortable position. Eyes open or closed, but eyes closed is the preferred method, because you will be able to focus more quickly.

Set aside a dedicated time for your breathing exercises, however can also practice when you're feeling really stressed or nervous. Regularly practicing mindful breathing will make it easier to do it in anxious situations.

Here is a brief overview:

RELAX and Get Comfortable. You can be seated in a chair or sitting on a cushion. Keep your back straight, but stay relaxed. Rest your hands wherever they're comfortable.

Take Notice of, and Relax Your Body. Pay attention to the shape of your body, its gravity. Let yourself relax and in your imagination, explore your body—the sensations, the touch, the connection with the floor or the chair. Pay attention to any tightness or tension and then Just Breathe.

Focus on Your Breathing. Feel the steady, natural flow of breath—in and then out. You don't need to do anything different with your breathing. Not long, or short, just natural—in, and out. Where do you feel your breath? What part of your body? It may be in your belly. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nose. Feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins, feel and visualize each one.

Refocus on Breathing. As you first try practicing you will notice that your mind will start to wander. You will start thinking about other 'stuff'. This is normal, and it's is not a problem. It is very natural to drift off focus. All you need to do is redirect your attention right back to each breath.

Take 10. Stay sitting for at least 10 minutes. Focus on your breathing, in silence. From time to time, probably will get lost in thought and de-focus, catch yourself and return to focused breathing.  
Re-discover Your Body. Go back to your body, and pay attention to it—your whole body. Then re-relax—even more deeply this time and repeat this exercise. 

Breathing and Thought—a change in one will change the other. You can train your breathing to influence your emotional and mental state, and thus loosen the grip of stress and anxiety. Good health starts with every breath you take.


Breathe to Heal
by Max Strom

With anxiety, stress, and sleep dysfunction skyrocketing around the globe, it's time we look at the unspoken reasons why. These debilitating challenges can be meaningfully impacted with ten to twenty minutes of breathing exercises per day. Max Strom, who has taught breath-work for 20 years, reveals his insights into the healing power of the breath.

Max Strom teaches personal transformation, mindfulness, and yoga worldwide and is known for inspiring and impacting the lives of his students. His Inner Axis method addresses the internal aspects of our life and our potential for physical and emotional healing. He is the author of "A Life Worth Breathing," and, "There is No App for Happiness."