Breathing exercises are one of the most effective ways of influencing the nervous system. In fact I have heard it said the breath is essentially the remote control for either eliciting relaxation or giving the mind and body a boost.
Here we will look at a simple breathing technique, called belly breath, that you can use anytime or anywhere to bring you into a more relaxed state.
The body cannot be stressed and relaxed at the same time. The gentle extension of the exhale particular can send a signal to the body that it is safe, invoking the relaxation response which is the opposite to the stress response.
Under the relaxation response many of the bodies systems work more optimally and in addition to its calming physical effects, this style of breathing can also help to calm and focus the mind.
Stand or sit comfortably with a straight but relaxed spine.
Place the palms of the hands on the belly with your middle fingers touching (once you get the hang of it you can miss this step).
Close the eyes, or gaze to one point, and consciously relax the body and soften the face and jaw.
As you inhale, gently draw the air down into your belly allowing your belly to expand into your hands.
As you exhale allow the bellow to deflate.
Repeat 10 times keeping the breath smoothe and without strain.
Release the hands and allow the breath to return to normal.
You can use this technique to help you come down after a busy day or as part of a sleep routine.
Or to get in the habit of connecting to and using your breath, you may also want to schedule 'breath work' into your day. It is good to link this to an activity such as before each meal. This has the added bonus of eliciting a relaxed state before eating which enables nutrients to be better absorbed.