Breathing Exercises

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    Michael Anders
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    Breathing is an essential part of life, but many underestimate it’s role in both psychological and physiological regulation.

    Breathing exercises have been practiced in many cultures and by many religions throughout history. The belief was that these simple exercises can clear the mind, balance the body and help refocus our thoughts.

    When these exercises were evaluated by researchers, it was shown that simple daily breathing exercises can have far reaching beneficial effects. This includes beneficial effects on ["Sudarshan Kriya Yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression. Part II–clinical applications and guidelines." Richard P Brown, Patricia L Gerbarg (August 31, 2005)" rel="popover" data-placement="top" role="button" data-trigger="focus" data-html="true">1, "Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system." Ravinder Jerath, John W Edry, Vernon A Barnes, Vandna Jerath (July 3, 2006)" rel="popover" data-placement="top" role="button" data-trigger="focus" data-html="true">2]:

    • Immune function
    • Autonomic nervous system imbalances
    • Psychological disorders

    However, the impact of breathing exercise on skin conditions (such as seborrheic dermatitis) has not been established.

    What has been documented, is that skin conditions can:

    As a result, using breathing exercises to reduce stress, improving immune function and become more comfortable with or skin is likely of benefit. And since these exercise are absolutely free, easy to practice and the potential benefits are impressive, why not adopt them to improve are state of being and use them to overcome life’s challenges.

    Choosing a Breathing Exercise

    There are lot of breathing exercises that exist today, most of which have studies that document their effectiveness and potential. This includes:

    • Transcendental Meditation – an Indian meditation practice centered around breathing
    • Sudarshan Kriya Yoga – another popular Indian breathing exercise
    • Shaolin Dan Tian Breathing – Chinese breathing exercise
    • Relaxation Response – a more modern variant

    Some of these are more popular then others, but it doesn’t this doesn’t necessarily mean they are better. It just means they have more individuals that practice them throughout the world.

    The truth is, many of these practices are quite similar. At their core, they utilize controlled breathing and four basic elements ["The relaxation response: psychophysiologic aspects and clinical applications." H Benson, M M Greenwood, H Klemchuk (August 2, 1976)" rel="popover" data-placement="top" role="button" data-trigger="focus" data-html="true">7]:

    • Relaxed muscles
    • Complete focus on the technique
    • Quite environment
    • Mental repetition

    Many of them are centered around meditation and have religious components, but this isn’t always the case. In the end, finding a breathing exercise that suites your own personal preferences should always take priority.

    A More Simple Approach

    Many of the above approaches can be a complex and daunting. To overcome this barrier to entry, it may make sense to start slow and incorporate a basic exercise to begin with.

    Here is a simple breathing exercise to help you get started:

    1. Find a quite space with access to fresh air
    2. Close eyes and position hands in a comfortable position
    3. You can sit or stand, but make sure you have good posture
    4. Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds
    5. Exhale for 6 second through either your mouth or nose
    6. Repeat for a pre-determined duration

    Some notes on this approach:

    • Best performed morning and evening
    • Set yourself a goal of at-least 5 minutes
    • Count your breathing to keep your mind clear of distraction

    As you get more comfortable with this approach, feel free to customize it to your liking and preference. You could potentially replace the counting with a custom mantra or phrase.

    Additional Notes:

    • Short controlled breathing sessions can potentially be used throughout the day to quickly regain focus and fight off bouts of stress
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