Can anyone learn these techniques?
I like to think of breath as the key to our inner pharmacy. We have the potential to call on all these amazing natural drugs inside us through different breathing techniques. if we make breathing part of our daily routine, we can learn how to use the body and the breath to navigate through the challenges of the day. We become quicker at noticing when we’ve shifted into a stressful state and can choose an appropriate breathing practice to regulate.
There are whole range of techniques – some you can do at your desk and some you might want a bit of privacy for. For example, when our bodies are flooded with adrenalin and cortisol we can flush it out of our bodies by stomping our feet and shaking our arms and legs. Animals in the wild do just that if they’ve been chased and have managed to run to safety. If we don’t respond to stress states in the body, we can stay in a hyper-focused state and many people – especially leaders – are operating constantly on the starter blocks. In the short term this drains energy levels and lowers the efficiency of digestion, and the mind becomes blinkered and unable to open to innovative thinking and solutions. In the long-term stress weakens the body and can create inflammation, which over time can be damaging.
The key to the solution is a daily practice. Without this our bodies won't remember and won't be able to call on the techniques when we really need them. Small steps lead to lasting change.
Are there simple techniques that are a good introduction to the practice?
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious a simple technique is to extend the exhale. When we have a shock and go into the sympathetic nervous system – the fight-flight-or-freeze response – we take a sharp intake of breath. And unless we consciously shift that pattern, we can spend all day doing shallow chest breathing. This has a cascade effect on our digestion, and it restricts the amount of blood that goes to the brain so we can’t think clearly and have blinkered vision.
By extending the amount of time we breath out it – a count of 8 is a good start – it resets the vagus nerve through the movement of the diaphragm. The long exhale also forces us to take a deep inhale which helps us find a relaxed state again. You can do it sat at your desk, in the midst of a difficult conversation, it’s a great place to start. If you want to amplify the effect, try breathing in and out of just your left nostril.
It's all about starting to develop an inner guidance system. Slowing down, breathing, and learning to listen and observe yourself. It can be uncomfortable and challenging at times, but when you combine these kinds of techniques with movement like yoga, meditation, and coaching it’s a powerful way to gain balance in your life.
Rose offers weekly morning breath classes and one-to-one sessions on-line and in person. Find out more about Rose and her work: www.roselong-lifechanges.com