The Myth behind taking a Deep Breath - Go Low and Slow instead.

How often do you hear take a deep breath, to invoke some kind of calm , only to feel more agitated!

Well there's a good reason why.

If you are already feeling distressed or overwhelmed in that moment when someone says "just breathe, take a deep breath", your heart rate may already be escalated, when you suddenly take a deep breath the heart starts pumping faster so then your respitory responses accomodates it by automatically taking more shorter exhalations.

This then signals your heart rate to increase further, and you may find yourself over breathing and this only creates more stress.

How do I breathe then?

Breathe low and slow. This kind of breathing will allow you to take in just the right amount of oxygen and also conserve your carbon dioxide so that the oxygen you are taking in will go to where it needs to go.

Here are the steps to low and slow breathing: Shift your breath from your chest to the belly. It helps to imagine your belly moving outwards; every time you breathe in, you gently expand it like a balloon, and every time you breathe out, you gently deflate it by drawing it back to the body. (It helps to loosen your belt or wear loose clothing to be more comfortable breathing this way)

  1. Take a normal size comfortable breath in (remember there is no need for a big breath; shifting your breath to the belly will deepen your breath naturally and sufficiently).

  2. Exhale as slowly as you comfortably can. Allow your exhalation to become longer than your inhalation. If you have trouble slowing down your exhalation through the nose, then exhale through pursed lips, as if you are blowing out a candle. A much slower exhalation through pursed lips will allow you to breathe out your carbon dioxide over a longer period of time, giving your body time to make more and maintain proper levels of carbon dioxide in your blood.

  3. When the feeling of wanting to breathe in arises, let your body inhale for you when it's ready. And let your next inhalation again be a normal-size comfortable one, followed by a long, slow, complete exhalation. ( you can also add an ahhh sound at the end, this is very soothing)

  4. Breathing low and slow for five minutes will allow the intensity of the sensations you experience to decrease. Of course, you can breathe for longer if you wish, even a few low and slow breaths will help in a stressful situation.

  5. If you find this a little daunting at first then begin with an exhale deflating the belly then count how long it takes to inhale and lengthen the counts by 2 or 3 as you exhale. ( a good rythm to start might be in for 3 out for five.

  6. There isn’t anyway you can experience this that is wrong, just to be here discovering and placing some awareness on the breath is enough.

  7. All will come together after a few minutes.

How do you feel now? A little more settled? This is a great practice to help with anxieties and panic-like symptoms when you may have more trouble regulating your breath.

Did you know that once you have awakened to accessing your breath it changes the automatic responses of the brain that may have changed through the accumulation of stress which has been on going.

The brain listens to your lungs – the brain primarily listens to the lungs first above the voice in your head, you cant talk your way out of panic, but you can breathe your way out, because your brain listens to your lungs. If you take a sharp inhale this can take you into shock so using the above sequence will build your resilience to any overwhelm.

Our brain and body is amazing ins't it? Always wanting to return to balance and wholeness.

Whenever you can find time in your future for self-care and connection with both yourself and others, take it. And remember, don’t breathe deeply, try breathing low and slow .

When you have accomplished this practice it at the end of the day before sleep.

You might also like to learn about Sama Vritti - Yogas balancing breath.

Cathie McGill - Spirit of Yoga has been practicing yoga and meditation for almost 3 decades and teaching for 24 years, she specialises in Restorative Practices and Hatha Yoga - Yoga Nidra.

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