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.
- 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.