Makeover Monday: Take a Deep Breath

As I think I’ve mentioned a couple dozen few times, I’ve really been suffering from some back and shoulder pain. So much so that last week I took the step of getting a therapeutic massage. It was my first serious massage, and the results as far as the area that had given me problems over the past few weeks were great. No more pain there.

Good news, right? Yes, but now every other part of my neck, back and shoulders hurts. :) The therapist had warned me to expect that as an after effect of the therapy. There were big knots in almost every area he massaged, and the manipulation of those tissues will leave the area a bit sore. It’s much better now than on Friday evening.

One bit of homework I have is to focus on breathing for relaxation. Besides relaxing my muscles, one of the benefits of massage of this type is that it improves oxygen flow and increases blood circulation, thus lowering blood pressure and heart rate. I like that. I like it a lot. I’d like it even more if I could maintain that improvement.

Enter, breathing exercises. Focused breathing is a great de-stresser, and since I tend to tense up during times of stress, it’s a natural for me.

The breathing exercises below are easy. So easy that they may seem silly, but they work!

My favorite breathing exercise is one I’ve shared before: Breathe slowly, counting backward from 60, inhaling through your nose on the even numbers and exhaling through your mouth on the odd numbers.

I have no idea where I learned this method or why it works so well, but it really works at slowing things down for me, physically and mentally. I do this one a lot when I’m going to sleep, and also when I’m in the doctor’s office for my blood pressure check-up. :)

The next exercise is a great one for calming down, too. You can do it for 3 or 4 repetitions or for several minutes as a form of meditation.You can also do this exercise sitting or standing, as long as you are in a relaxed position.
– Slowly inhale through your nose, silently counting to five.
– Exhale slowly, silently counting to eight as the air leaves your lungs.
– Repeat several times. As you breathe, keep your shoulders relaxed and let your abdomen expand outward instead.

Another super simple breathing exercise also focuses on the abdomen (getting the diaphragm to do it’s job.)
– Sit comfortably in a chair, with one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
– Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Feel the cool air on the tips of your nostrils. Focus on the way your stomach expands as your lungs fill with air.
– Exhale to a count of five, again focusing on the stomach as it deflates.
– Repeat several times.

Finally, here’s a good breathing exercise for first thing in the morning. It’s great for getting rid of the stiffness that sleep sometimes brings.
– In a standing position, knees bent slightly, bend forward from the waist and let your arms dangle to the floor.
– Inhale slowly and deeply, gently rolling or unfolding your body upward to a standing position again.
– Hold your breath and stand still for 2-3 seconds and then exhale slowly as you bend forward again from the waist, returning to the original position.

Easy, right? It’s hard to believe such simple techniques are actually beneficial, but they are. They relax AND energize me, which seems kind of strange when you think about it. I suppose what they do is relax me so that my energy is redirected in a positive way.

I hope you can take a few minutes today to sit still and breathe. Your body will thank you for it.

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