Improve your breathing
Breathing is something we do automatically - we simply don't think about it. Of course, it would be very difficult to think about our breathing all the time, but it is useful to spend a few minutes each day doing full, healthy breathing. Most of us breathe too shallowly, using only the upper chest and about one-third of our lung capacity, so that only a small proportion of the oxygen that should be reaching our bloodstream is inhaled. This means the body's cells do not receive sufficient oxygen to reproduce at their optimum rate. And, as the lungs fail to fill properly over the years, they lose their elasticity and so cannot reach full capacity.
This poor breathing may be merely a habit and is often related to stress. The more tense we feel, the shallower our breathing is likely to become. And, just as tension and shallow breathing often bring with them thoughts galloping out of control, slow, deep breathing calms the mind.
Breathing exercises have a very relaxing effect and slow the body down considerably. In the deep breathing exercise and the alternate nostril breathing exercises demonstrated here, focus your attention on your breath and try to observe its progress through your body.
Breathing and exercise
One of the great benefits of aerobic exercise is that it improves the way we use oxygen. However, many of us do not breathe correctly when we exercise and this undoes all the benefits. Most of us tend to hold our breath whenever we do anything strenuous, but this actually makes whatever we are doing more difficult and encourages the accumulation of tensions in the body. By breathing correctly during exercise, we can actually rid the body of those tensions.
Rather than holding the breath or gasping it in, breathe out as you make an effort and in as you release it. This helps you to perform any exercise better, aids your concentration and revitalizes your energy levels.
This exercise helps establish a slower, deeper breathing rhythm, which in turn slows the heart rate and the pulse and aids relaxation. It is designed to be used on a regular, preferably twice-daily basis, morning and evening, but it can also come in handy when you're in a stressful situation -you don't always have to lie down.
1 Lie on the floor, placing your hands on your abdomen, fingertips touching. Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, counting to five. Your lungs and abdomen will expand, making yourfingertips part.
Hold the deep breath for the count of five. Then, very slowly, this time on a count of 10, exhale through your mouth. Feel your fingertips touch again and keep on going, trying to empty your body completely of air. Repeat the whole sequence 10 times.
Next Steps ...
You'll have more to work with, but it will feel harder at first. Equally, if you're suffering from serious depression, schizophrenia or other mental difficulties, take medical advice before starting meditation. It may not help you at all, or your medication may make it harder for you to do the practice.
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