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You hear that age old saying "just breathe."  How does the way you breathe affect your health?  Here are a few facts about breathing that may surprise you.

Our breathing is controlled by our Autonomic nervous system.  We don't have to think about how to breathe.  A person takes approximately 200,000 breaths in a day. Unfortunately, many situations change our breathing patterns throughout the day which we might not realize can be harmful.

Emotions can cause our bodies to react in a physical manner. As an example, fear, stimulates the sympathetic nervous system in the body, it increases your heart rate, it increases your blood pressure, and increases your breathing rate.  That is the fight or flight instinct we have built into our system.  Humans have used this to instinctively run away from danger.  Anxiety and stress, which often have the same effects to our body as fear does, can be very harmful to your body, if continued over a long period of time.

Learning to breathe the correct way can help with stress and anxiety, increase oxygen to the brain and heart, and help your muscles and body to relax. Taking the time to stop, acknowledge how your body is reacting can take a stressful situation and help the body to adapt properly and decrease the harm that stress would have caused.

Breathing techniques have been around for centuries. Yogis have used these exercises to create a state of calm.  Over the years it has been scientifically proven that deep breathing does help reduce blood pressure, helps create a state of relaxation and calm, and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing the body to a homeostasis balance.
Here are a few breathing techniques to practice:

Abdominal Breathing

This can be done anywhere to help you relax. Try to get into a comfortable position.

  1. Place one of your hands on your stomach, just below your ribcage. Place the second hand over your chest.
  2. Breathe in deeply through your nostrils, letting your first hand be pushed out by your stomach. Your chest should not move. Slowly count to four.
  3. Now, breathe out through your lips, pursing them as if you were about to whistle. Feel the hand on your stomach move inwards, gently help to press out the breath.
  4. Slowly repeat between 3 and 10 times.

4-7-8 Breathing

The method which is called 4-7-8 Breathing, also requires you to be sitting down or lying comfortably. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Get into the same position as you did for the Belly Breathing exercise, with one hand on your stomach and one on your chest.
  2. Breathe in slowly but deeply. Take 4 seconds to breathe in, feeling you stomach move in the process.
  3. Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  4. Breathe out as silently as you can manage, taking 8 seconds. Once you reach 8, you should have emptied your lungs of air.
  5. Repeat as many times as you need, making sure to stick to the 4-7-8 pattern.

Deep Relaxation Breathing

To start, sit down in a comfortable position and focus on your Belly Breathing, closing your eyes if need be. Then do the following

  1. To relax your face, knit your eyebrows together and release.
  2. To relax your neck, tilt your head down towards your neck, and push your chin to your chest, then release.
  3. To relax your shoulders, make a shrugging motion, then release.
  4. To relax your arms, push both arms away from your torso, stretch them out, and then relax them by your side.
  5. To relax your legs, point your toes as far away as they will stretch, and then relax.