The trick behind deep breathing

You may be aware, or have heard, that deep breathing is a useful tool for managing stress and anxiety. But research has shown that the best form of deep breathing to manage stress and anxiety is when the outbreath is longer than the inbreath…and here’s why.

It has been found that deep breathing techniques all have one thing in common…and that is, that they work by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system or PNS. Now, the importance of the PNS is that it, in turn, activates within us a natural bodily response that can best be described as “rest and digest”. In other words, it activates within us a state of rest and relaxation.

Interestingly, every time you exhale smoothly and slowly…the PNS switches on… which not only causes your blood pressure to drop but also sends feelings of relaxation throughout your body.

On the flip side, we have the sympathetic nervous system, which is the opposite of the PNS. The sympathetic nervous system is switched on when we are in fight, flight or freeze mode…a heightened state of alertness, where your heart is racing. Interestingly, every time you inhale, the sympathetic nervous system switches on just a little bit…and this causes your heart rate to rise slightly.

And this is why the best form of deep breathing to manage stress and anxiety, is when the outbreath is longer than the inbreath.

The 7-11 breathing technique, used in yoga and meditation, is one of the most common breathing techniques used for managing stress and anxiety. The technique is simple to use and follow…and can be used discreetly wherever you are. All you need to do is:

– breathe in slowly through your nose for 7 counts…then
– breathe out slowly and to the same count through your mouth for 11 counts
– continue doing this until you feel calmer and more grounded.

For some people, this may be too long to start off with…so you can modify it to suit you ie inhale for 4 and exhale for 8. The numbers don’t matter so much as ensuring that the outbreath is longer than the inbreath.

So…give it a go…and notice the difference it makes in your body…and to your stress and anxiety.

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