When our kids get upset about something what is one of the first things we tell them to do? We say, "Take a deep breath," as we do it by example. It may take a few deep breaths but soon you begin to feel their little body start to relax and their breathing and heart rate slow back down to a normal rate.
Breathing is something we do automatically and mostly subconsciously. It seems like a very simple task but the brain controls every little action that is needed in order to supply the correct amount of oxygen to the body.
When we are stressed, upset, and in that "fight or flight" mode our muscles tense up, our heart rate increases, and our rate of breathing increases, among many more automatic responses. There are 2 breathing exercises you can start practicing when you feel stress levels increase, belly breathing and box breathing.
Let's start with belly breathing. Kids instinctively belly breathe, but adults often breathe much shallower and have to relearn and practice belly breathing. Begin by putting one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. Take a deep breath in through your nose and notice your hands, the hand on your belly should raise higher than the hand on your chest. This ensures that you are filling your entire lung with air which will push down your diaphragm. Exhale through your mouth and repeat the cycle.
Benefits of belly breathing include: Increased supply of oxygen and other nutrients to cells throughout your body, increases the supply of blood and nutrients to your muscles and bones, relaxes muscle spasms and tension, supports muscle growth, and increases energy.
The 2nd breathing exercise is known as box breathing. This exercise can be done when you are in a stressful situation and need help calming. While performing this exercise try to focus and concentrate on the breath and what you are doing. Begin by exhaling through your mouth for a count of 4, fully emptying your lungs. Next, inhale through your nose for a count of 4. Slowly filling your lungs and belly. Hold that breath for a count of 4. Then slowly breathe out through your mouth, again for a count of 4 and focusing on the air leaving your body. Pause for a count of 4 before breathing in again. Repeat this "box" as many times as needed.
Benefits of box breathing include: calms and regulates your nervous system, lowers blood pressure, gives a sense of calm, helps with pain management, and can help with insomnia.
Do yourself a favor and try these 2 exercises and see how your body responds to the simple act of intentional breathing. For demonstrations of these exercises head to our Facebook or Instagram pages, or you can ask us about them at your next visit to Stange Chiropractic.