Thursday, 9 February 2012

Conscious Breathing Exercises |

Conscious Breathing Exercises Photo Credit meditation image by Steve Lovegrove from

Conscious breathing exercises are a helpful way to slow down, take a step away from your busy life and reduce your stress levels, according to Andrew Weil, M.D., a renowned integrative medicine specialist. Conscious breathing exercises make you aware of your breath and your body, and can help you integrate your body and mind. Breathing deeply and purposefully also helps improve gas exchange in your lungs by involving your lung's lower lobes, where blood perfusion--the amount of blood bathing your lungs--is greatest. Conscious breathing exercises are simple and quick and can yield significant health benefits.

The Stimulating Breath

Weil recommends the stimulating breath exercise to boost your vital energy and heighten your awareness. You perform the stimulating breath exercise by inhaling and exhaling quickly through your nose, while keeping your mouth closed, yet relaxed. Your breaths in should be the same duration as your breaths out, but keep both as short as possible and attempt to perform three in-and-out breath cycles every second. The high frequency of this exercise causes quick movement of your diaphragm. Weil notes that this exercise is intended be a noisy breathing exercise and that you should not do more than 15 seconds on your first attempt. Consider increasing your total exercise time by five seconds in each subsequent session until you reach a full minute. When you perform this exercise successfully, you're likely to feel invigorated, much the same way that you feel invigorated following an intense workout. Perform the stimulating breath exercise one time per day.

The Relaxing Breath

The relaxing breath exercise calms your nervous system. To perform this exercise, sit with your back straight and place the tip of your tongue against the tissue ridge situated behind your upper front teeth, keeping your tongue in that position for the duration of the exercise. Your exhalations should be performed through your mouth, around your tongue. Begin the relaxing breath exercise by performing a full exhalation through your mouth, making a "whoosh" sound. Then close your mouth and breathe in deeply through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for seven seconds before again exhaling through your mouth over a span of eight seconds. This constitutes one breath cycle. Inhale again and repeat the cycle three additional times, for a total of four breath cycles. Weil notes that you should always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth, keeping the tip of your tongue in position the entire time. Exhalation should take twice as long as inhalation. This exercise is also called the 4-7-8 exercise, which refers to the relative ratio of inhalation to breath holding to exhalation. According to the American Lung Association, deep breathing techniques, such as the relaxing breath exercise, can successfully relieve physical and emotional stress and tension. Perform the relaxing breath exercise one time per day.

Breath Counting

According to Weil, breath counting is a simple technique used often in Zen practice. For this exercise, sit in a comfortable position, keeping your back straight and your head tilted slightly forward. Next, close your eyes and take several deep breaths, then let your breath come naturally without trying to control it. It's best if your breathing is quiet and slow but your breathing depth and rhythm are free to vary. After your breathing warm-up, take a breath in, exhale and count "one" to yourself. After you exhale a second time, count "two." Continue your counting up to "five." Once you reach a five count, start your counting cycle again, counting "one" on your next exhalation. It's important that you never count higher than "five" before you start a new cycle. If you suddenly find yourself counting "nine" or "15," you'll know that your focus has shifted away from your breathing exercise. Consider performing this exercise for 10 minutes every other day. According to the Zen Mountain Monastery, the purpose of counting your breaths is to develop the power of concentration, to empower yourself to put your mind where you want it, for as long a duration as you desire.


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