Breathing for Relaxation Back up to relaxation page

Some simple breathing exercises, all based on controlled breathing. Some are related to the PMR exercise but shorter. It's probably worth trying them all to see which works best.
    Focussed breathing
    Zen breathing
    Diaphragm control

Why it works:
Breathing control works because of the tie-up between mind and body. When you're overanxious, your upper chest tends to take over breathing from your diaphragm just as it does when you run. Body and mind are so interlinked that if your body is behaving like everything's cool, your mind starts assuming everything must be and you wind down. Practical implication; controlling your breathing, and particularly the balance between chest and diaphragm breathing, has an impact on your mental state. Slow, steady breathing reduces arousal levels; rapid, chest-dominated breathing raises physiological and mental arousal levels.
1: Focussed breathing (for similar exercises, see The Mental Game Plan)
Find a comfortable place to sit. This also works standing up, but practice sitting before you stand...
Settle comfortably, breathing normally for a few moments, then go into the routine...
Breathe in through your nose, over about 2-3 seconds  
Hold for a few seconds Variation: Transfer your lungful of air 'downward' to your diaphragm (collapse your chest and let your stomach stick out, is what this feels like)
Breathe out slowly over about five seconds, feeling youself relax as you do so. Variation: Couple the outward breath with a 'cue word' such as 'smooth' or 'easy... easy.. easy...'. This makes it easier to recall the feeling at short notice, by using the cue word.
Carry on breathing in the same way for about half a dozen cycles.  
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2. Zen breathing
Based on Herrigel's book where breathing is almost a discipline, and regarded (as in many martial arts) as a cornerstone of power and control.
Breathe in quickly through the mouth  
Transfer your lungful of air 'downward' to your diaphragm (See the variation in the exercise above)
Breathe out slowly - over many seconds, through the nose. To slow breathing down, the student may hum as the breath is expelled.
Repeat ad infinitum Herrigel reports breathing exercise lasting half an hour or more in Zen training.
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3. Diaphragm control
Your diaphragm is that bit just under your rib cage (at least, the one I'm talking about is). It helps your lungs work by going up and down. Controlling it is an important breathing control technique. This exercise is good for learners, because you literally feel yourself breathe (that's tactile feedback, by the way; powerful stuff).
Find somewhere to sit or stand comfortably  
Place both hands on your stomach, just below your ribs, with the left and right middle fingers just touching.  
Breathe regularly so that your fingetips move apart as you breathe in, and touch again as you breathe out.  
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