Have you ever noticed that when you're relaxed you breathe slower and deeper and when you are stressed you breathe faster, shallower breaths? The simple act of breathing allows us to oxygenate our body and calm our minds.
When you watch a newborn baby breathe, you will notice its tummy rise and fall, this is the way breathing should be. Over your lifetime you may have turned into a shallow breather or have you remained a deep breather?
A simple exercise is to sit in front of a mirror, place one hand over your stomach and the other over your chest. When you take a big breathe in, which hand moves first? The top or the bottom hand? If you said the bottom, you are still a deep diaphragmatic breather. We all started this way but life, stress, and poor posture can sometimes retrain you into being a shallow breather. If you were a shallow breather I want you to try this little exercise morning and night until you retrain yourself. Watch yourself in the mirror and really focus on breathing into the bottom hand and totally filling the lower section of your lungs.
A more advanced version of this is the 7/11 breath. With this exercise, you start by counting the length of your in and out breathes. Ideally, your exhalation will be longer than your inhalation. This exercise stretches you to breathe in for the count of 7 and out for the count of 11 but very few people can do this straight off. Start with a lower number but make sure the out-breath is longer. I often recommend starting with an inhalation of 3 and exhalation of 5 and working up to 5 and 7 and ultimately to 7/11.
The power of breath is phenomenal. Even just 3 deep breathes in a stressful situation can quickly turn things around and the beauty of it is it can be done anyway, in the crazy morning commute, in your work bathroom before a stressful meeting or last thing a night before you close your eyes. Try it for yourself!