With just three deep breaths, you can change your life!
Western society has taught us to suck in our gut and push out our chest when we take a deep breath. Studies have shown that "chest breathing" stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that's active in a fight or flight situation. While appropriate in times of danger, chest breathing actually prevents a person from relaxing.
Abdominal breathing causes a shift into the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that is dominant in times of safety and relaxation. One of the reasons why meditation, hypnotherapy and Lamaze are so effective is that they all begin with abdominal breathing which creates a sense of safety and well-being.
Relax your shoulders.
Take a slow, deep breath.
Keep your shoulders relaxed while consciously sticking out your belly in order to inhale from the diaphragm.
Hold the breath to the count of four then slowly exhale.
Practice in front of a mirror with your hands lightly resting on your lower abdomen. If you're breathing correctly, your abdomen will protrude and your hands will be pushed out, but your chest and shoulders will not move.
Even if you're too busy to spend long periods of time meditating, everyone has time to take a couple slow, deep breaths. I recommend that you get in the habit of taking three abdominal breaths at the start of every hour. You can do it at work, when you're walking in a crowded mall, while taking an exam or even in the middle of an argument. No one will be the wiser, but tension, anxiety and anger will fade and you'll be much more able to cope with whatever life brings your way.
Jeri Mills, MD
3333 N. Campbell Ave., Tucson, AZ 85719