Intro to Controlled Breathing Technique
Listen to the audio version below:
Introduction to Breathing Exercise:
Let's start with the simplest and most accessible strategy that we can use anytime, anywhere to get immediate results.
This is a form of Slow Paced Breathing technique, known as Box Breathing.
Breathing is something that we do every minute of each day. Yet many of us are not aware of our breathing. Specially when we feel stressed or anxious.
Are Breathing Exercises Effective?
Breathing techniques are used by people in the highest stressful conditions. This includes the Navy Seals, paramedics, firefighters, and even with women giving birth. Breathing techniques have also been scientifically shown to be effective in the management of anxiety disorders (Goessl et al., 2017). However, if you have any concerns, you should consult with your doctor or a healthcare professional for more guidance.
What Is Slow Paced Breathing?
SPB (based on Lehrer & Gevirtz, 2014; Lehrer, Vaschillo, & Vaschillo, 2000) refers to the voluntary control of the length of our inhale and exhalale as we breath. All we’re going to do is slow down our breathing. In spontaneous normal breathing we are usually breathing between 12 and 20 cycles per minute in adults (L. Sherwood, 2006). In slow paced breathing, we bring this down to about 6 cycles per minute.
Why Slow Down Our Breath?
Fast, Shallow “chest breathing”, which happens specially when we are feeling stressed or anxious, has been shown to increases tension and anxiety. In other words, it can make your stress or anxiety worse. It’s also been shown to contribute to health problems, sleeping problems, cognitive functioning (so how well you can think). This is why we want to stay away from this kind of breathing.
The Benefits of Sow Paced Breathing:
On the other hand, deep intentional "belly breathing" can help regulate your autonomic nervous system. This is the system that controls your fight or flight, or stress response.
There is strong evidence that Slow Pace Breathing can help:
- lower heartbeat
- stabilize your blood pressure
- improve stress levels
- improve sleep
- improve ability to think well
In other words, slower breathing can help you get out of the stress response and into a calm state.
How Can We Do This?
It’s very simple. We are going to Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold again for 4 seconds. We are going to do this for 5-6 cycles. Don’t worry, if you didn’t get that the first time, I have provided you with a guided breathing exercise in the next section.
Before we begin, some things to note:
But before we begin, something to keep in mind is try to breath through your nose, not your mouth. I invite you to try it your nose first and switch only if you need to. Also, Don’t force anything, let things come with ease. We are going for progress, not perfection.
Refer to the next section for a guided version of the exercise