Just Breathe… But Why?

 In Psychotherapy, Resources, Toronto Therapist

breathWhen stress and tensions are high, many of us naturally turn toward finding a strategy to help manage these challenging emotional experiences.  I am often asked, “What helps?”

While during the therapeutic process, we can work together toward understanding and shifting what may be causing distress, it can also be helpful to be mindful of what can be done in the midst of heightened stress and anxiety.

First, and perhaps, most easily accessible to us is: to breathe.

For the most part, many of us do not take an active awareness of our breathing and have gotten into the habit of breathing shallowly.  It is further exacerbated when we experience emotional distress, we unconsciously shorten the breath which can deprive our cells of much needed oxygenation.

Nanci Zi, a breathing expert and author of “The Art of Breathing”, says, “Breathing incorrectly can produce tension, exhaustion and vocal strain, interfere with athletic activity and encourage aches and illnesses.”

There is the possibility of experiencing some immediate release of tension by taking several deep breaths.  However, I also suggest incorporating a regular deep breathing practice.

According to an article in the Harvard Gazette published in November, 2012:

A new study has found that participating in an eight-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the brain functions even when someone is not actively meditating.

The idea of meditation can be intimidating for many, but with the intent to regularly focus on breathing, as opposed to “clearing the mind”, and a practice as short as five or 1o-minutes could be more approachable.

Further, there are a growing number of resources to assist in making meditation and conscious breathing easier:

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction founder, Jon Kabat-Zinn, offers guided meditation CDs available to be ordered from his website.

There are also many mobile apps available for download.  The two I recommend are Simply Being and Pranayama Universal Breathing (both apps are available on multi-platforms).

Calm.com is a website providing free online 2mins, 10mins and 20mins guided meditation programs.

As Dr. Andrew Weil says: “If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.”  Simple, perhaps, but breathing is something many of us easily take for granted.

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