Breathing- We do it every day and we know it is essential, but when was the last time you really thought about your breath?
While yoga and mindfulness have increased the popularity of focused breath work, it can be easy to miss how profound and accessible this work actually is.
Let’s talk about some of the uses of breath work:
Focused breath work has been shown to increase energy, reduce stress and anxiety, increase immune function, promote relaxation, aid in self-awareness, manage pain, and improve digestion. Pretty incredible, right?
Another fascinating aspect of breath is that it is one of the few systems in our body that is under both unconscious and conscious control. Not only do we breathe all the time without paying attention to it, we also have the power to make changes to breath depending on what we want to accomplish. This means that by consciously managing our breathing we can change our physiology, mental state and energy level.
While there is a wealth of information on focused breath work for various purposes, we are going to keep it simple and focus on one practice that allows us to more effectively manage stress: extended exhales.
What is an extended exhale? An extended exhale occurs when we exhale for longer than we inhale. For example, maybe you inhale for 4 seconds, hold at the top for 1 second, and exhale for 8 seconds.
What does the extended exhale do? The extended exhale actually activates the parasympathetic nervous system and communicates to your body that you are safe, allowing your nervous system to relax. Extended exhales are therefore a powerful technique when you are feeling stressed, anxious, irritable, or overwhelmed.
How often can you use the extended exhale? There is no limit to how much you can use this tool. Simply use it whenever you would like to calm down, reduce anxiety, or relax.
Other things to note about extended exhales: It is typically recommended that your exhale is double the length of your inhale (i.e. inhale for 3 seconds, exhale for 6) when you practice extended exhales. Slowing down your breath as you engage in this practice can also aid in it’s effectiveness.
There are many ways to engage your breath to regulate your nervous system and increase well being. Check out some of the links below or schedule your appointment today to learn more.
References and links:
Ted Talk: Change your breath, change your life
Ted Talk: What your breath could reveal about your health