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“Take a deep breath”   Have you ever heard this suggested as a way to calm yourself?  Probably hundreds of times and you may have even given this advice out to others.

 It is actually great advice because deep breathing calms the central nervous system and gives you something to bring your focus to, BUT do you really know how to take a deep breath?

 It is so worth your time to learn this technique or way of breathing.   Consistent practice will allow your lungs to become more efficient in sending oxygenated blood to every cell in your body.  This will improve your immune system, energy level, and have many other positive effects on the mind and body. This deeper breathing, using the diaphragm muscle can also help to relieve shoulder and chest tightness as shallow chest breathing is reduced.  In the short term and on demand you can calm yourself and become more centered and focused!

 The goal is to slow down and expand the breath.  So more air in slowly, more air out slowly.

 Breathe through your nose.

 The inhale opens or lifts the stomach and chest in that order.

On the exhale the stomach and chest fall.

Don’t worry if this doesn’t feel natural and you haven’t been breathing this way, just start to practice it.

 You can check to see how you are breathing by lying on your back and putting one hand on your stomach and one on your chest.  Breath and see which hands are moving and when.  Practice bringing the breath into the stomach if only the chest is moving. If the breath feels tight, forced, or you get light headed take a break.  It should be calming and smooth. Work with it, the results will be well worth it.

Remember:

Stomach and chest rise on the inhale and fall on

the exhale (the back and side body expands and falls also)

Slow the breath down

Think energy and expansion on the inhale;

release and softening on the exhale.

 A refined version of this breath called the Ujjayi Breath has been used in many Yoga and Meditation traditions for thousands of years and has been an invaluable staple of mine both on and off the mat.  You can practice whenever you think of it for just a few breaths or a few minutes.  Before sleeping and eating or while standing in lines are ideal times.  Don’t wait until you are in a stressful situation to try to utilize this tool.   Become familiar with how to do it and the calming effect that it brings you.  It is easy, free, and it works!