The Calming Breath

by Larry Barsh, M.S.   C.H.T.

Our breath is a natural tranquilizer and pain reliever.

Most people have forgotten how to breathe well and, consequently, receive only a minimum of the air they could take in (often as low as 30%). So, put a hand over your navel and breathe in. Did your hand move outward? If not, you are probably inhaling insufficiently. Practice breathing like a baby.

When you watch an infant sleep, you notice its diaphragm/abdomen area gently move out and in. That is good breathing. And you can train yourself to breathe like that again. Simply take every opportunity you can to place a hand over your navel and inflate your
diaphragm/abdominal region as you inhale, and deflate that region when you exhale. You will see your hand moving out and in to show you that you are breathing more deeply. After you breathe in using your diaphragm, you may inflate your chest with air. Then, when you exhale, deflate your chest first, and then your diaphragm. When it seems that all the air is out of your diaphragm, push in a little more with your hand to expel the last of the air. By doing this you strengthen your diaphragm, and it is able to take in more air next time. Soon, you will notice that you are naturally breathing diaphragmatically.

By practicing diaphragmatic/abdominal breathing, people find that they are calmer, have more energy, can focus and quiet their minds, lessen and relieve pain, and benefit from diaphragmatic breathing massage of internal organs. This kind of breathing creates many subtle benefits, and when incorporated in the Calming Breath Technique, can work to develop higher levels of well being.

The Calming Breath Technique consists of three simple steps. First, place the tip of your tongue to the back of your upper front teeth (at the ridge where the palate meets the teeth). Your tongue will remain there throughout the entire exercise. Then close your mouth, and breathe in through your nose, to the count of four. Next, with mouth closed and tongue in place, hold that breath for a count of seven. Then, part your lips and breathe out around your tongue to the count of eight. Pace yourself so that the last of the breath is expelled when you reach eight. If you wish, you can press on your diaphragm/abdomen to push out more air and strengthen the diaphragm. Repeat the technique three more times (four times in all), and do this twice each day. When you feel comfortable doing the Calming Breath four times, increase to eight times, twice each day. Of course, you may use this technique whenever circumstances call for it. You won’t hyperventilate, and I’ve never heard of side effects from this practice.

When you begin to breathe more deeply and naturally (diaphragmatic/abdominal), and utilize the Calming Breath, you will probably notice a sense of having greater control over instances of pain, anxiety, anger, and upset. The pay-off is significant for those who consistently practice each day, as you give your body one more tool for balance and rejuvenation. That’s worth a few minutes of attention out of each day.

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