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Basics of Breathing We breathe to bring oxygen into our bodies and let carbon monoxide out. Bringing this oxygen into our lungs is where it is transferred to our blood which then supplies our muscles, brain and other organs with energy to continue to function. Breath is a basic yet vital and life giving function. How does Stress Affect Your Breath? Our stress levels can directly affect our breath, the more stressed we are the shorter our breath tends to be. We tend to carry our shoulders high, increasing tension and again restricting our breathing. When we're stressed, we are less likely to take deep breaths, decreasing our oxygen intake, thus limiting how much oxygen our muscles, brain and other organs get to function properly. All these scenarios combine to place our “fight or flight” system on high alert, again increasing our stress cycle. How can we combat Stress with a Breath? A single deep breath can de-escalate our sympathetic nervous system aka the “fight or flight” response, and activate our parasympathetic nervous system aka the “rest and relax” response. Taking a deep breath or three in a stressful situation can help us relax and de-stress. It allows our more logical and reasoning portion of our brain to activate and help us through difficult situations. Also making breathing exercises a regular part of your daily activities can help temper our stress responses throughout the day which lowers stress hormones in our body and creates a happier and healthier running system within our bodies. Therefore, we can combat stress levels with a simple breath! Different Types of Breathing Stress tends to make our breaths shorter and less efficient. Short shallow breaths only oxygenate the upper portion of our lungs, leaving the lower portions of our lungs without proper oxygenation. There are several different types of breathing techniques that can help combat this while contributing to our overall sense of calm. This list includes deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, pursed lip breathing, focused breathing, equal breathing, Lions breath, and Sitali breath just to name a few. We will further discuss some of these breathing techniques in the next session but any one of these can reduce stress and help us recharge. As little as one min a day can decrease your stress and with increased practice can become a habit throughout our days to improve our overall wellbeing. Breathing Exercises Deep Breathing Take a deep breath in through your nose into the bottom of your lungs. Hold this breath of 5 seconds then slowly exhale out through your nose. Diaphragmatic Breathing Place one hand on your upper chest and the other below your ribs, this will allow you to feel for diaphragmatic movement. Next, take slow deep breaths in through your nose, your top hand should be still while your lower hand should be rising with your breath. Then as you exhale again your top hand should be still and your lower hand should lower with your stomach contracting. Pursed Lip Breathing Breath in through your nose for a count of 2 seconds. Then pucker your lips and breathe out through your mouth for a count of 4 seconds. Repeat. Focused Breathing During this task inhale for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds. Repeat this process while focusing on each step of the breathing task and how it feels. You can even say “peace and calm” during the inhale, and “tension and stress” during the exhale as you go through this practice. Equal Breathing Simply take a deep breath in through your nose counting how long it takes. Then exhale through your nose for the same count as you inhale. There are plenty of other types of breathing. Find one or two or ten that you find to be helpful and scatter them through your day to help you de-stress, relax and refresh! Blog Post By: Dr. Kendal Anderson, PT, DPT

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