Breathing is the key to relaxation

Learn how breathing can help calm you and relieve stress.

Have you ever stopped to think how much our bodies work for us on a continual basis without us even noticing or taking the time to notice and give thanks to it? There are several human body systems that work collaboratively to make our bodies function and provide us the abilities to do the things we want such as to be able to read this article or use the computer, sit upright and even something as simple as breathing. In the book “Breathe, Chill – A Book of Games and Techniques Introducing Breathing, Meditation and Relaxation to Kids and Teens,” the authors talk a lot about breathing!

They understand that most people do not think about or notice their breath. They want to point out that breath can be a very useful and helpful tool when feeling stressed, tense and pain. They state that during periods of stress, the sympathetic nervous system is activated. They say it is an instinctive and natural human response commonly referred to as the “flight or fight” mode and it is activated when a potential threat or danger is sensed. The problem is, it can and often is activated when no threat is present. 

A variety of stressors can trigger this response and the results range from feelings of tension or anxiety to rapid or strained breathing or holding your breath. By learning to recognize these symptoms one can consciously turn off these alarms signals by calming the body and mind and the easiest and fastest means to do this is to concentrate on the breath. Practicing breathing techniques on a regular basis trains the mind and the body to respond to stress, anxiety or feelings of discomfort. 

Breathing techniques develop mediation skills and teach present moment awareness that reduces sleeplessness and restlessness. Because of all these benefits many teachers are teaching breathing techniques to their students in between lessons to allow students to re-center and refocus and more importantly preparing them to learn to be more productive.  Besides teachers, athletic coaches teach breathing treatments to their athletes in order to prepare them to dig deeper or persevere when competition gets more intense. 

Some examples of breathing techniques are belly, back and side breathing. You physically lie on your back or side to focus your breath to a specific area to expand the chest in all directions allowing the lungs to take in more oxygen.  Other techniques are combined with stretching so that air and blood flow increases helping to calm the mind and body.

Teaching breathing techniques help people of all ages gain an understanding of how the breath works, learn to recognize stress triggers, and develop the coping skills necessary to process and regulate reactions and emotions.  If someone in your family is having difficulties with anxiety, sleeplessness or is restless suggest they look into breathing techniques to help. Michigan State University Extension has programming that can help manage stress

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