Section FOUR – Breathing Techniques
Very often, people do not breathe properly when they are tense or stressed. Mental stress is able to create physical tension in the body. By simply becoming aware of how you breathe, when you are tense and/or during different periods of the day, will be a positive step in the right direction to learning how to relax yourself naturally.
To START – Correct BODY Posture
Having an upright and correct body posture will greatly affect how you breathe. A slouching posture with the head tilted forward, puts pressure on the neck and there is less room in the lungs to function properly. Wherever you are, be aware of your posture!
- Bring your breast forward by pulling back your shoulders, and at the same time make sure they remain relaxed (don’t pull them up).
- Pull your head up, as if a wire connected at the top is pulling it.
- Pull in your stomach, and breath freely (feel how much easier it is to breathe when standing tall).
What takes place during inspiration and expiration
What is the correct way to breathe?
When breathing normally (that is breathing in and out of the nose) you should aim to have a correct posture so lungs can function well.
During inspiration (breathing in), the intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs) contract, the ribs swing out and up, the sternum is pulled forward and the diaphragm moves down. These actions increase the size of the chest cavity and air rushes in and fills the lungs. During expiration (breathing out), the intercostal muscles relax, the sternum moves back and the diaphragm moves up. These actions cause air to be squeezed out of the lungs.
Simple relaxed breathing
Practice deep breathing at a regular time and in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Loosen or remove any tight clothes, such as shoes or jackets. These exercises can be performed either seated or standing and is an ideal way to relax individual(s) before a CBRT session.
Pursed lips breathing
A simple breathing exercise you can do anytime and anywhere, to help relieve shortness of breath.
- Sit uupright and relax your neck and shoulder muscles.
- Close your mouth, and breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of two: 1… 2. Don’t take a deep breath, just a normal one will do.
- Now, pucker or purse your lips as if you were going to whistle, and blow slowly and gently through your pursed lips while counting to four: 1… 2… 3… 4.
- Repeat for a minute or two, or as long as you feel comfortable.
- Pursed lip breathing helps with shortness of breath, it helps move old air out of your lungs, and it helps you relax. It’s also a good technique to use during the hard part of any activity, such as bending, lifting, or climbing stairs. Or even taking a long walk.
Practice this technique four or five times a day until you get the hang of the breathing pattern. Then use it anytime to relax or to control your breathing.
Balloon breathing – Visualisation
- Sit in a comfy chair which supports your head or lie on the floor or bed.
- Place your arms on the chair arms, or flat on the floor or bed, a little bit away from the side of your body with the palms up. If you are lying down, stretch out your legs, keeping them hip-width apart or slightly wider. If you are sitting in a chair, do not cross your legs.
- Imagine you are inflating and deflating a balloon, filling your lungs with air, without forcing.
- Breathe in through your nose … and breathe out through your mouth.
- Breathe in slowly and regularly counting from one to five (don’t worry if you can’t reach five at first). Then let the breath escape slowly, counting from one to five.
- Keep doing this until you feel calm. Breathe naturally without pausing or holding your breath.
- Practice this relaxed breathing for three to five minutes, two to three times a day (or whenever you feel the need to calm down).
Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported. (You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs.) Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
- Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.
- Feel your body relax before you breathe in again. When you first learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, it may be easier for you to follow the instructions lying down, as shown. Try to practice this exercise for 5-10 minutes about 3-4 times per day.