One of the absolutely best ways to relax and become calm is by breathing. But not just any old common breathing will do. There are more thoughtful and creative ways that will help you forget the day, become more clear-minded and feel more peaceful. When you learn to use your whole upper body to breathe properly and thoughtfully, you will also be moving, exercising, and massaging your back, chest, lungs, ribs, and abdomen. You will feel refreshed and relaxed.
Many people prefer to sit in a comfortable sitting position on furniture while they practice thoughtful breathing. Others, like me, prefer to lay because I can fully concentrate on my breathing. If you are taking a breathing relaxation break at work, you will want to find a comfortable and private place to sit. At home, you have more options. If you don’t want to fall asleep, you can breathe in a seated position rather than lie down. When you are done, give yourself a few minutes to become alert before you resume standing and walking because this thoughtful work can lower your blood pressure.
Some people use only the upper parts of their lungs when they breathe. Anxious people especially tend to breathe high in their chests, taking shallow breaths. Some people have heard that belly breathing is the way to go and so use their abdominal muscles to breathe but neglect chest movement. Thoughtful breathing allows relaxation because it moves all of the different parts of your chest, ribs, back, and belly and so, acts as a massage for those areas. It distracts you from annoying little thoughts because you are thinking about your breath only. Thoughtful breathing is a peaceful way to relax. It’s a form of meditation.
Here are six different — and interesting — ways to use your breath for relaxation. You will start with the most basic movements and then discover some unique ways to breathe!
6 Ways To Breathe For Relaxation
1. Assess Your Breathing And Use Full Breath
Start in a comfortable, supported position that feels safe to you. If you are seated, lift your breastbone and position your head comfortably over your body. Close your eyes. Place one hand on your belly button and one in the middle of your chest. Inhale. Where do you feel the movement when air fills your lungs? Do you feel it in your chest, upper chest, lower chest, or abdomen? The goal is to move the whole area that is under your hands evenly. Take several more slow breaths while trying to move and fill this whole area evenly. Please be aware that you may become light-headed so when you are done, take your time getting up.
2. Breathe With Your Belly
With your hands on your chest and abdomen, slowly inhale and feel the air fill your belly and move your lower hand. The hand on your chest should be still. When you exhale, do it intentionally and feel the air leave your body. Purse your lips and blow your stress away.
3. Breathe With Your Lower Chest
With your hands in the same position, keep your belly as still as you can and try to feel the movement of inhaling only in your lower ribs.
4. Breathe With Your Upper Chest
Again, keep your hands in the same position and inhale but only move your upper chest with your breath.
Now, it gets more interesting. You will do some breathing that you didn’t know you could. You will move your ribs in a way that you didn’t know they could move. When I had a client with a Master’s Degree in Voice and Tremendous Breath Control do the next movement, her eyes grew large and she said, “I didn’t know that could happen!”
5. Breathing Sideways
Place your hands on your chest and belly. Inhale but don’t let your hands move with the breath. Instead, your inhalation will move your ribs outward on the sides. After you know what it feels like to not move the chest and belly, place your hands on the outsides of your rib cage and inhale. You can actually feel the movement going sideways and you are using your chest and ribs in still another way! This may take some practice but you can do it.
6. Criss-Cross Breathing
In your favorite resting position, exhale. Inhale into the right upper side of your chest, slowly, thoughtfully. And hold a moment. Now exhale from your left lower chest. When you inhale again, inhale into the left side of your upper chest. When you exhale, breathe out from the right lower chest. Inhale into your upper chest; exhale from your belly.
By using these different patterns of breathing, you increase your concentration and bump all the distracting stressful thoughts out of your mind and out of your day.
When you are done with your breathing session, be still for a few moments. Open your eyes and become aware of your surroundings. Let your breath return to normal. Go back to your day, relaxed and refreshed!