When we’re stressed, we tend to hold our breath. Our inhalations are hurried and our exhalations tend to be short. These breathing patterns keep us hyped up, ready to respond to dangers (whether they’re real or imagined). In contrast, a relaxed breath feels deeper, slower and softer.
By breathing deeply and deliberately sighing, we mimic the physiological effects of relaxation. A long, gentle exhalation sends signals to the mind saying “It’s okay to relax now.”
For many, this is the quickest, most efficient and most reliable way to induce the relaxation response.
- Breathe in, feeling the chest expand.
- Pause briefly, then let the breath fall from the body.
- Let the next breath come naturally.
- Repeat about seven times.
- Let each breath be slightly deeper and softer than the one before.
- Rest in the stillness at the end of each breath.
- Feel your body soften in response.
- Don’t make the breath so long or deep that you become light-headed.
- A deep breath doesn’t mean a huge full breath; it means a subtle abdominal breath.
- If the breath feels awkward or contrived focus on sounds instead.
- Try not to control the breath too much.
Let the body breathe for you.