It’s no secret that monitoring and controlling inhalations and exhalations can relax the body and the mind. Slow and steady deep breathing signals our nervous system to enter a calm state. Your autonomic nervous system, made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, controls involuntary body functions like heart rate and digestion.
The sympathetic nervous system controls your fight or flight response and releases adrenalin and cortisol providing bursts of energy and strength. The parasympathetic nervous system controls your rest and relaxation response, decreases respiration and heart rate, and increases digestion.
A variety of different types of breathing techniques can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and can be highly effective tools in managing anxiety and insomnia, or just allowing you to de-stress and relax.
Here’s a simple method of mindful deep breathing that will calm your body and mind. You can practice this type of breathing from a seated or reclined comfortable position. Personally, I use it to fall back to sleep if I wake up in the middle of the night.
1. Close your eyes and start breathing in and out slowly and softly through your nose. Go through a few cycles of breath.
2. Start to count slowly 1-2-3-4 as you inhale through your nose. Exhale the same four second count. Do this for three cycles or until you get into a rhythm.
3. Continue with this method of inhalation and exhalation. See if you can increase the count to five seconds on the inhale and five seconds on the exhale without any difficulty.
4. Next, take your inhale and then hold your breath before you exhale for the same amount of time as your inhalations and exhalations. Do this for 10 rounds. Remember to go slowly and count, equal time on the inhalation, the retention, and the exhalation.
Enjoy the peaceful feeling or have sweet dreams.