Osteopathy

Breathing Exercises for Stress Management and Relaxation

I thought it might be useful to share some breathing techniques to encourage relaxation and combat the stress of COVID-19.

Our stress response, also known as the ‘fight or flight’ response is the body’s mechanism of confronting or avoiding danger. When appropriately invoked the stress response helps us manage many situations, but trouble starts when this response is constantly provoked by day-to-day events, such as money woes, job insecurities or COVID-19!

This can result in health problems including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Anxiety and depression

We can’t avoid all sources of stress in our lives, but we can develop healthier ways of responding to them.  One way is using breathing techniques to invoke the relaxation response.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing, focuses on filling the whole of the lungs with air and getting the diaphragm moving.
Due to many of us having desk jobs we have adapted unintentionally to ‘chest breathing’. Slumping forwards at a computer restricts movement in the lower ribs and diaphragm, resulting in shallow breathing and reduced air intake.
Deep breathing encourages your diaphragm to contract downwards, creating space to inhale more air, and then relaxes upwards, pushing the air out as we exhale.

Here are 2 examples of breathing techniques that can be done anytime, anywhere. Please stop if you start to feel lightheaded or dizzy.

Diaphragmatic Breathing:

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  1. Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
  2. Put one hand on your abdomen just below your ribs and the other hand on your upper chest.
  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose, feel your abdomen rise. Your chest should not move.
  4. Breathe out through your mouth, feel the hand on your abdomen lower.
  5. Repeat 3 more times. The hand on your abdomen should move more than the one that’s on your chest and this will get easier with practice!

Lateral Breathing:

This technique emphasises the lateral expansion of the rib cage, including the lower ribs, to which the diaphragm is attached.

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  1. Sit in a comfortable position.
  2. Place a scarf or exercise band flat around your back and sides.
  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose into the sides and back of the torso. Feel your ribs pushing against the resistance of the scarf or band.
  4. Breath out through your mouth, feel your ribs lower and reduced tension on the scarf or band.
  5. Repeat 3 more times.

Once you have practiced these try slowing them down. Inhale for a count of 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds and exhale for a count of 8 seconds (4-7-8).

Any questions please do get in touch.

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