Breath work is a truly life changing strategy to navigating through difficult emotions, thoughts, or conversations, as well as mitigating stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD-related symptoms. What is so astonishing about different kinds of breathing techniques is that they are simple, yet incredibly effective.
When we increase the oxygen flow within our respiratory system, our body is able to slow down. This means blood pressure and heart rate begin to drop, and our brain receives signaling to calm down.
Deep breathing also improves immunity, serves as a natural pain killer, reduces inflammation, improves posture, and helps with sleep.
When we bring our conscious awareness to our breath, we almost instantly pop-out of the flight-fight-fawn-freeze response. When our stress or trauma response is triggered, our limbic system is activated signaling messages to the body to run away, fight, abandon needs, or collapse. Our limbic system is housed within the mid-brain, which is also referred to as our mammalian brain. When we notice our breath, meaning paying attention to it & analyzing it's quality, we instantly engage our human brain, AKA the neocortex, which is responsible for consciousness. When this part of our brain is activated, we snap out of that sympathetic arousal that is stimulated by the limbic system, and thus can begin to calm down & return to baseline.
One of my favorite breathing techniques comes from the work of Peter Bliss. When you notice feeling escalated in any way, begin breathing in the following manner:
- Inhale for a count of 4
- Hold your breath for a count of 7
- Exhale for a count of 8
I like to call this type of breath work "Hot Tea Breathing" because it's the perfect breathing exercise to take the edge off. For me, I like to unwind with a hot cup of herbal tea. Perhaps you have a favorite beverage to relax, whether that be good ol' water, kombucha, hot chocolate, juice, or warm milk. If a particular drink stands out for you, feel free to rename this technique and make it your own!
Often times when folx begin learning breathing techniques, it can be a bit of a process to learn the count and integrate the flow of the exercise. Feel free to follow along with this instructional video on "Hot Tea Breathing."