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How many of us think about breathing with each inhale and exhale?! Interestingly, breathing is one of the few bodily functions which can be controlled both consciously and unconsciously.

The unconscious action of breathing is controlled in the brainstem, which automatically regulates the rate and depth of breathing depending on the body’s needs at any time. The conscious control of breathing is commonly practiced in meditation, yoga in form of pranayama, athletic disciplines in swimming and cardio exercise, as well as in speech and vocal training. In particular, diaphragmatic breathing is also used to play musical wind instruments; just as laughter, hiccups, yawns, and sneezes are breath phenomena.

As you can see from the wide variety of breathing techniques, it is safe to say that all breaths are not created equal. We will be discussing a breathing technique to introduce calmness to the nervous system and a busy mind. This can be achieved with a simple exercise of a timed breath allowing the exhale to become longer than the inhale.

Allowing the exhale to last even a few counts longer than your inhale sends a signal from  the vagus nerve (running from the brain down the neck through the diaphragm) to the brain, turning up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system.

The parasympathetics are vital in controlling  the response to rest, relax, and digest. When the parasympathetic system is dominant, the breathing slows, the heart rate drops, the blood pressure lowers as the blood vessels relax, and the body is put into a state of calm and healing.
So here is how to put your body into a more relaxed and calm state of mind and body:
  • Sit still and tall somewhere comfortable with a neutral spine
  • Close the eyes and begin breathing through the nose
  • Inhale for a count of 2…
    • Hold the breath in for a count of 1…
  • Exhale gently, counting out for 4…
    • Finish by holding the breath out for a count of 1
  • Keep your breathing even and smooth.
The most important thing is that the exhale is longer than the inhale, not the absolute length of the breath. If the 2-4 count feels too short, try increasing the breath lengths to 4 in and 6 out, or 6 in and 8 out, and so on.
Practicing breathing like this each day for 5 minutes will help you discipline yourself in order for it to eventually reach the point where this breathing technique becomes unconscious! You will be able to see a difference in your mood and overall sense of calm!

Have questions? Contact me here, at drtijana.dc@gmail.comFacebook, or Twitter!

Be healthy & happy, Dr. Tijana

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