Last month I told you there was an exercise so powerful that within a couple of minutes of practice it could lower your heart rate, boost your digestion and improve your sleep and that this same exercise practiced to the extreme can have hallucinogenic effects and create out of body experiences – let me remind you, it’s called breathing!
Breathing for most of us, most of the time is totally automatic, governed by our autonomic nervous system, it happens all by itself. However, we can override our natural breath and if we know how we can create an effect within a few minutes of practice.
If you are already practicing yoga, you may have realized that there’s an infinite number of breathing practices, but what may not be so clear is that there is a finite number of results. Breathing practices can promote one of three different nervous system responses:
- a balancing effect on the nervous system
- a downregulating effect on the nervous system, stimulating the parasympathetic response that can feel calming
- an upregulating, sympathetic effect on the nervous system that can feel energizing.
- Balancing breath practices are always a good choice, day or night. They can be used freely without any concerns.
- Down-regulating breathing techniques, relieve stress and can help put you to sleep. These practices can leave practitioners feeling groggy and soporific so use them with care.
- Up-regulating breath practices, wake you up and prepare your body for activity. They can overstimulate the nervous system and can lead to feelings of restlessness, they can disrupt your digestion and they dampen the impulse to breathe, so we should exercise caution when practicing this type of breathing technique.
This month I want to share with you a very simple and easy balancing breathing technique. This technique has an adaptogenic effect on your nervous system – if you’re up, it will bring you down; if you’re down, it will bring you up. You can use this technique any time, day or night, before high-stress activities to balance your nerves and when you’re feeling sluggish to balance your energy so you can get on with what needs doing. Like sipping a glass of water throughout the day to keep you hydrated, it’s always a good choice. Using this practice, we are aiming to breathe at around 4-6 breaths per minute.
- Inhale through your nose counting slowly 1-2-3-4, small pause at the top of the inhale
- Exhale through your nose counting slowly 4-3-2-1 small pause at the end of the exhale
- Repeat for 10 rounds
That’s right, that’s it, it is that simple.
I encourage you to try it a few times a day and see how you feel. Let me know how you get on.
Take care of yourself, Clair.