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Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing is a relaxation technique that can be self-taught. Deep breathing releases tension from the body and clear the mind, improving both physical and mental wellness.

We tend to breathe shallowly or even hold our hold our breath when we are feeling anxious. Sometimes we are not even aware of it. Shallow breathing limits your oxygen intake and adds further stress to your body, creating a vicious cycle. Breathing exercises can break this cycle.

The importance of good posture cannot be overstated. While sitting, we tend to slouch, which compresses the diaphragm and other organs, resulting in shallow breathing. Slouching also strains muscles in the neck and back. It is helpful to sit in a chair with good back support to avoid fatigue that leads to slouching.

How to do Deep Breathing Exercises:

Sit up straight. (Do not arch your back) First exhale completely through your mouth. Place your hands on your stomach, just above your waist. Breathe in slowly through your nose, pushing your hands out with your stomach. This ensures that you are breathing deeply. Imagine that you are filling your body with air from the bottom up.

Hold your breath to a count of two to five, or whatever you can handle. It is easier to hold your breath if you continue to hold out your stomach. Slowly and steadily breathe out through your mouth, feeling your hands move back in as you slowly contract your stomach, until most of the air is out. Exhalation is a little longer than inhalation.

After you get some experience you don’t need to use your hands to check your breathing.

You can also do the above breathing exercise lying on your back. Deep breathing exercises can help you to relax before you go to sleep for the night, or fall back asleep if you awaken in the middle of the night.

You can also practice deep breathing exercises standing – e.g. while sitting in traffic, or standing in a lineup at the grocery store. If you are really tense and feel as if you are holding your breath, simply concentrate on slowly breathing in and out.

Other relaxation techniques that can be self-taught are meditation and progressive muscle relaxation.

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