by ed2go instructor, Cyndie Koopsen
One of the most profound healing techniques is FREE—and right under your nose…literaly! According to Andrew Weil, MD, one of the leaders in integrative medicine, learning how to breathe correctly is probably the most important practice you can do to support good health.
Breath control provides many benefits, including:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced or eliminated heart arrhythmias
- Relief of chronic indigestion
- Increased blood circulation throughout your body
- Improved immune function
- Decreased anxiety
- Improved sleep
- Improved energy
- Improved sense of well-being.
Breathing is both a voluntary and an involuntary process. Thus, it is the only function of the body where you can access and control your involuntary (autonomic) nervous system functions (such as circulation, digestion, heart rate, and other vital functions). Imbalances of the involuntary nervous system are at the root of many disorders (including disorders of digestion, high blood pressure, or irregular heart rhythms). Breath control can be a positive intervention for these health conditions.
There are several guidelines and methods to help you practice the healing art of breathing. They include the following:
- Observe your breath. Following your breath should be a pleasant and relaxing process and result in your body and mind feeling “neutral.”
- Practice breathe work for at least five minutes each day.
- Make your breathing slow, deep, and regular. If your mind strays—and it often will—bring your attention back to your breath.
- Breathe from your abdomen. As you take a breath, your belly should expand (not your chest).
- Begin with an exhalation first. Picture your breath as a circle of inhalations and exhalations. By exhaling first, the normal way of thinking about breathing is reversed and this may help you focus more clearly on your breathing.
- Squeeze out more air with every breath. As you get to the end of your exhalation, try to breathe out just a little more air than normal. This forces you to take in more air during your inhalation.
- Imagine that, with each breath, the universe is blowing breath into you. Let yourself feel that the breath is penetrating every part of your body, including your fingers and toes. With each exhalation, imagine that breath is withdrawn.
Now that you understand some basics of breath work, try this simple relaxing breath exercise to achieve a sense of relaxation and calm.
A Simple, Relaxing Breath Exercise
- Sit on a cushion or comfortable chair, or lie down. Your back should be straight. Use pillows if you need them to be comfortable during the session.
- Choose a time of day when you are fairly awake. If you are alert, you might want to close your eyes. If you are drowsy or tired, you might want to keep your eyes open.
- Choose a time to practice breath work during which you will not be interrupted. Turn off all electronic devices.
- Begin by taking two or three deep breaths.
- Let go of thoughts of the past and future, and allow your body and mind to relax.
- Close your mouth lightly. Inhale through your nose to the count of 4.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Exhale audibly through your mouth to the count of 8.
- If thoughts, sounds, feelings, or physical sensations enter your awareness, gently bring your attention back to your breathing.
- Repeat these steps three more times, for a total of four breath cycles. Then breathe normally and notice if there are any changes in how your body feels.
There are many techniques that can be used in breath work to enhance well-being. Experiment with several of them until you find one that works well for you. Then practice the techniques regularly.
Six-week online classes, ed2go instructor, Cyndie Koopsen teaches breath techniques:
- Certificate in Brain Health
- Certificate in Complementary and Integrative Medicine
- Certificate in Energy Medicine
- Certificate in Gerontology
- Certificate in Healing Environments for the Body, Mind, and Spirit
- Certificate in Healthy Aging
- Certificate in Holistic and Integrative Health
- Certificate in Integrative Mental Health
- Certificate in Meditation
- Certificate in Mindfulness
- Certificate in Pain Assessment and Management
- Certificate in Spirituality, Health and Healing
Cyndie Koopsen, RN, BSN, MBA, HNB-BC, RN-BC, HWNC-BC is a nurse who has cared for patients in acute care settings, community clinics, and the home. Her professional nursing career has involved nursing executive leadership and administration, staff development and education, community education and wellness, and holistic care. She has designed, developed, and presented numerous educational programs for audiences covering integrative health, promotion and wellness, and chronic disease management and prevention. She is the co-author of Spirituality, Health, and Healing and Integrative Health: A Holistic Approach for Health Professionals.
Caroline Young, MPH, has an extensive public health background that includes experience in research, workshop presentations in various areas of health care, and online and onsite teaching. She has expertise in holistic community health and wellness program design, development, marketing, implementation, and evaluation. She has also designed, developed, and presented integrative health programs for culturally diverse populations, senior populations, and faith communities. She is the co-author of Spirituality, Health, and Healing and Integrative Health: A Holistic Approach for Health Professionals.
These authors/presenters are the Co-CEOs of ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC. They have no affiliation or financial involvement that conflicts with the material or information presented in this activity. No commercial support has been received for this activity. All applicable local, regional, state, and/or national laws and regulations have been followed in the development and delivery of this activity.