Iris Mini: Breathing

"Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body" - Thich Nhat Hanh

Breathing exercises activate the part of your nervous system that calms your body down. These exercises balance out the human “fight or flight response” and return your body to a more stable state. The "fight or flight response” often happens quickly and automatically (as if you were being chased by a tiger!) before you have time to prevent it. Breathing exercises can help reduce this automatic response.

Breathing Exercises:

Diaphragmatic breathing involves taking deep breaths using the muscles below your lungs called the diaphragm. This is different from “chest breathing” which is shallow and rapid. One way to know whether you are breathing with your diaphragm or chest is to place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen during the exercise. If you are breathing with your diaphragm, the hand on your abdomen should rise and fall as you breathe.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Instructions:

Find a quiet place and sit comfortably with both feet on the floor. You may find it helpful to lean slightly forward (at approximately a 45-degree angle).

Place one hand on your abdomen, just below your navel, and one hand on your chest.

Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of three, expanding your abdomen as you do so.

Now, exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of three, emptying your lungs completely by contracting your abdomen fully.

As you exhale, silently say to yourself the word "relax."

In addition, as you exhale, imagine a magic wand passing over your body from your head to your toes, spreading a wave of relaxation as it does so. By the time the wand reaches your toes, you should be on the "x" of the word "relax."

Pause two seconds.

Repeat several times to induce relaxation.

Pursed-lips breathing is particularly useful when feeling out of breath after exertion, such as climbing stairs. You may want to practice it during a time when you are relaxed. When you exhale in this exercise, you breathe out through pursed lips (like you are blowing out candles). This helps release air trapped in your lungs and strengthens the muscles used for breathing.

Pursed-Lip Breathing Instructions:

Sit in a comfortable position and relax your shoulders.

Take an easy, normal breath in through your nose for a count of two.

Purse your lips as if you were to whistle or gently make the flame of a candle flicker.

Breathe out slowly and gently through your pursed lips. Keep a steady stream of air flowing through the center of your lips.

Concentrate on breathing out if you can comfortably.

Then, gently breathe in through your nose again and repeat the exercise. Remember to relax and not create too much pressure in your chest.