When I am all over the place, when I feel I can’t focus on what I need to do first, deep breathing is my favorite answer. It helps me shift from feeling stressed or nervous to finding balance and clarity. And it’s simple.
While breathing happens unconsciously, you can consciously change your breathing in terms of its rhythm and depth, and thus influence and even change how you feel.
As a yoga practitioner and teacher, this is how I recommend breathing deeply: Sit straight (but not stiff), feet on the ground, arms relaxed. Breathe in deeply and slowly breathe out, both through the nose. Your exhalation should be twice as long as your inhalation, and should be ‘silent’ in the sense that others wouldn’t hear you. Concentrate on your breathing, and don’t block out thoughts – let your thoughts come, acknowledge them, and let them go. Benefits are greater if you close your eyes during the breathing.
You’ll notice a change after a couple of minutes already. Why so fast? What does deep breathing change?
Here are two main benefits I have seen with my clients and myself.
Deep breathing helps to return to a calmer and balanced state. This is related to how the brain functions. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) enables you to: choose what to pay attention to, focus and solve problems, override automatic fear reactions, make choices and tolerate something unpleasant. Stress depletes the PFC of the energy it needs to function and in the process let other automatic brain functions take over, like habits and emotional reactions. Breathing relaxes the body and flushes out stress chemicals. It’s a great tool to return to a calmer and balanced state and function from a place of being non-judgemental and more objective.
The second benefit relates to making room for creativity. After a few deep breaths, the stress level comes down. As a result, you feel more relaxed and it allows the PFC to take over again. You can look at a situation from a calm space, and see options and possibilities. It allows you to play with ideas, to let your creativity flow and even more so if you close your eyes. Closing the eyes shuts off the visual processing parts of the brain, allowing more energy for more creative parts to be engaged. Ideas will come with clarity.
Ideally practice deep breathing regularly and on a daily basis, but a start would be to just do it in times of stress or nervousness. Practice wherever you are, even while driving, before making an important phone call or getting into a meeting.
Just do it and enjoy the benefits!
Would love to hear how you feel deep breathing benefits you. Please share in the comments below. Thank you.