Relaxation Practices: Deep Breathing
From Ariana’s 2015 book: The Magic of Mojo: The Creative Power Behind Success (Chapter 14)
If you can breathe, you can consciously relax your body. It’s that simple. There are more breathing techniques than there are traditions that teach them, and you could spend a lifetime just exploring them all. I believe in starting with the easiest, most basic techniques, because when you’re under pressure, unless you practice it regularly, a complicated practice is likely to be forgotten.
Start by noticing the pattern of your breathing right now. Are you breathing slowly, deeply, quickly, shallowly, or hardly at all? Are you yawning? (You just did, now that I mentioned it, didn’t you?) Are your inhalations and exhalations the same duration, or is one longer than the other? Are you breathing through your mouth, your nose, or a combination of the two? Do you pause between the inhalation and exhalation, between the exhalation and inhalation, or both?
If you’re like many people, this may be more than you’ve thought about your breath in your whole life. Did you realize how many different factors made up your normal breathing pattern?
Once you’ve identified your normal breathing pattern, we’re going to play with it a bit so you can experience how changing different aspects of your breathing changes the way you feel.
First, consciously make your inhalations last a little longer. Notice how it feels when your inhalation is longer than your exhalation. Then, make your exhalations a little longer. How does it feel if your exhalation is longer than your inhalation? Next, count out the timing of your breaths. Practice counting in for four counts and out for four counts. Now, try breathing in for four and out for six, or in for six and out for four. Then, add a one-count pause between the inhalation and exhalation or vice versa. You can try breathing just through your nose, just through your mouth, or alternating. You can also try breathing alternately through each nostril. The variations are endless! Just don’t breathe so quickly that you hyperventilate.
Most people know that taking long, slow, deep breaths are relaxing, but did you know that different types of breaths can stimulate your nervous system to help you relax or be more energized? Longer inhalations stimulate your sympathetic nervous system (sympathetic = stimulating), while longer exhalations stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (parasympathetic = peaceful). Another helpful tip is to allow your imagination to guide your breath deeper: When you inhale, imagine your breath going all the way down to the bottom of your abdomen. Don’t allow your shoulders to rise, instead, feel your rib cage expanding out around you like a tire or an inner tube. Then imagine the breath going further—all the way down to your feet.