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Stress Management: HowTo Do Deep Abdominal Breathing

Stress Management: How to Do Deep Abdominal Breathing

Breathing is one of those things we all do, yet we rarely think about it; when a system like the respiratory works without us having to think about it or make it happen, it’s called “involuntary.” The respiratory system has the unique ability to work all on its own without our help, unlike the muscular system, which works voluntarily.

When we breathe, we get this precious gift called life. We can survive 21 days without food, seven days without water but can only go one to three minutes without oxygen. And at the 60-second mark, brain cells are already dying. Yet after 20 years of teaching yoga (Mother Trucker Yoga’s Membership) to others, there is one thing I have come to find, many do not like to breathe. I would often notice few would appreciate the art of breathing practices (pranayama) in yoga. You could see people start to fidget, become distracted, and even get annoyed at the idea that they weren’t “doing anything” during their yoga class. Yet without the ability to breathe, nothing on the yoga mat would even be possible. 

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Breathing is a tool. Those that learn to harness the device and tap into its vast abilities to improve, help and even heal the body get to reap the benefits of increased vitality, health, and happiness. But time and time again, I have observed others choose pills, alcohol, and even violence to manage what we all call stress or our emotions rather than tap into this tool we are all born with and have access to us at any given time. 

Stress can alter just about any system in the body if we allow it to. 

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Stress can:

  • Raise our blood pressure
  • Increase our heart rate
  • Increase our body temperature
  • Leave us in physical pain
  • Can decrease our immune system
  • Give us stomach discomfort
  • Make it difficult to sleep
  • Can affect your libido 
  • Tense your muscles 
  • Cause weight gain 
  • Burden your nervous system
  • Leave shallow breathing

When is the last time you felt the effects of any of the above and thought you should practice deep breathing? 

When my oldest son was small, and he’d get stressed out, the first thing I would have him do is deep breathing. Three deep breaths, I’d say, and we’d do them together. He’s now nearly a teenager, and I have observed him repeatedly defaulting to deep breathing when he is stressed, angry, frustrated, or can’t sleep. He automatically uses this incredible tool we all walk around with every day but rarely tap use voluntarily. 

The average American breathes with less than 18% of their lung capacity. That’s what I like to call clavicle breathing. It’s no wonder we are a stressed-out, upset, unhealthy out of touch society. I say these are the very things I have felt before yoga and learning how to tap into my breathing. And the same things I think when I’m not in my body, using my breathing, and feeling grounded in my skin. 

How do we breathe?

The average person takes about ten breaths per minute; that’s an average of 22,000-24,000 breaths per day. That’s a lot of breathing. And when we breathe, we inhale necessary oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide and toxins that our body wants to remove. When we breathe, our lungs expand and take in air, and our diaphragm lowers and expands as well, taking in oxygen to then be distributed out to the millions of cells throughout our body that need that fresh oxygen to live. 

Dr. James Hoyt, a pulmonologist, says, “Our respiratory muscles don’t have the luxury of being out of shape.” Yet how many people can say with certainty that they use them, work them, build them like their bicep regularly? There is a saying, “use it or lose it,” and it fits here with our breathing. 

 A recent study in the Journal of Neurophysiology may support this, revealing that several brain regions linked to emotion, attention, and body awareness are activated when we pay attention to our breath.

And, also nearly every system in the body is connected to our respiratory system or breathing. 

  • Our metabolism increases when we practice deep breathing.
  • Our autonomic nervous system regulates when we deep breathe.
  • Our digestion can settle and improve when deep breathing.
  • Our muscles relax and get total oxygen, helping them not to cramp.
  • Our lymphatic systems become stimulated, hand and hand, with our immune system, both stimulated when we breathe.
  • Our body is fully oxygenated when we deep breathe.

And one of our deep breathing’s most impressive features is that it stimulates our vegas nerve. 

What is the vagus nerve?

The vagus nerve is the longest of the cranial nerves, extending from the brainstem to the abdomen through multiple organs, including the heart, esophagus, and lungs. It controls the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which contains your relaxation response. Most people never breathe deep enough to stimulate this impressive nerve. We need the vagus nerve to be alive and working because the vagus nerve controls your mood, heart rate, digestion, and immune response. Stimulating your vagus nerve can help to regulate many functions in your body.

Vagus nerve stimulation has been linked to treating epilepsy, improving digestive conditions, reducing inflammation, and managing anxiety disorders. The journal Frontiers in Neuroscience reported in 2018 that the poor function of the vagus nerve could lead to mood and anxiety disorders. But most importantly, when you stimulate the vagus nerve, you can reduce anxiety, stress, and mood disorders. All of this can happen when you learn to breathe more deeply and more often. 

WAKE UP, PEOPLE! BREATHING IS FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Where does your breathing fall?

Clavicle Breathers: Those that breathe only into the upper chest, throat, and shoulders. These breathers often have lifted shoulders and a tense neck. 

Chest Breathers: Those that breathe into the center of the chest. 

Abdominal Breathers: Those that breathe deep into the belly and feel their lungs and abdomen expand freely. 

We have forgotten our unique ability to help and heal ourselves. When you were a baby, no one had to tell you how to breathe, yet there you were, breathing so deeply that your entire torso was expanding and contracting every breath you took. I have listened and watched my children as infants, and now adolescents get upset and even cry only to default to their breathing to calm them down. It’s in you; you have done it; you have just forgotten how to do it. 

Deep Abdominal Breathing Technique:

  1. Sitting tall or lying down comfortably, place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart/chest. 
  2. Exhale completely through your mouth and hear your breath move out of your body. 
  3. Inhale through your nose and move your breath deeply into your lower hand (belly) and feel it expand. Continue to move your breath up to notice your upper hand (chest) rise. 
  4. Exhale slowly move the air out, feeling your belly collapse and your chest lower (in any order). 
  5. Soften your jaw and relax your body, focus on fully emptying your belly when you exhale and fully expanding when you inhale. 
  6. Work yourself up towards a count of four counts on the inhale and eight on the exhale. 
  7. Repeat this for two to five minutes. 
  8. Anytime your mind wanders, bring it back to your breathing. 
  9. Allow yourself to hear your breath each time you inhale and exhale. 

How to do deep abdominal breathing

Continue this practice daily in the morning to wake up, when you are feeling stressed, waiting in traffic (minus the hands-on your body), or before you go to sleep to help you relax. 

You have tools to help you breathe, relax, fall asleep. The real question is, are you using them? 

Deep Abdominal Breathing Benefits:

 Various deep abdominal breathing forms have been linked to cardiovascular benefits, including increased blood flow and improved blood pressure. Deep breathing is also a helpful tool for relaxation and sleep. Taking deep breaths can also help you manage stress and improve cognitive function like brain fog and lack of focus and concentration.

If every tool you are reaching for is outside of yourself, let me ask you, have you tried the tools you were born with? The tools you were given and are the very tools that make this life possible? The tool I am talking about is your breathing. 

Try This:

For one week, practice deep abdominal breathing at least one time a day. Work to practice it at the same time each day. Set the alarm on your phone or in your calendar and make it a priority. All too often, we say something doesn’t work or help, and we have never really tried it, let alone given it the attention required to see results. 

After seven days, come back and let us know how you did. What changed, what you noticed or found. 

Now take a deep breath and start living! 

Resources:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_focusing_on_the_breath_does_to_your_brain

https://www.uchealth.org/today/understanding-breathing-and-the-importance-of-taking-a-deep-breath/

https://www.healthline.com/health/facts-about-stress#25.-Past-experiences-can-cause-stress-later-in-life

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.n

https://www.consumerreports.org/mental-health/ways-to-manage-stress/ih.gov/29593576/

 

Tips to Get the Best Results From Your Yoga Session

Tips To Get The Best Results From Your Yoga Session

 

Yoga has been gaining popularity over the past decade because it provides a unique form of exercise and relaxation. Studies have also proven that it is a great workout that helps eliminate body aches and pains. The history of this workout style has also shown that yoga is more than exercise and can help you connect with your inner self. As studies have proved and practice has shown, yoga can be very beneficial; and you must gain all those benefits. On that note, here are some tips to help you get the best results from your yoga session.

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Know your physical limitations and pay attention to your body

 

Yoga can get quite intense, and you need to know your physical limitations and pay attention to your body so that you do not push your body past its true limits. For those who have medical conditions, such that they may need to use a posture corrector app or other forms of assistance, you must be cautious when practicing yoga to avoid hurting yourself or aggravating an injury. You should be concerned about how your body reacts to each pose and session. Relax and allow your body to express itself and when it hurts, stop, and take a breather to change your pace.

 

Have no expectations

Yoga combines exercise with meditation; that is how it works. Having expectations before you begin will throw a spanner in the works, and you could lose your zen. So, it is better to have no expectations when you start a yoga session. Instead, look forward to spending time connecting with yourself. Have an open mind and enjoy the experience.

 

Create a relaxed atmosphere and avoid distractions

Yoga is centered on relaxation and meditation. So, create the right atmosphere where you can relax and connect with yourself. Yoga is therapeutic, and as such, where you practice must set the mood. It is advisable to dedicate a space solely to practicing yoga to evoke a sense of calm and relaxation. This area must be free of noise and other distractions so that your meditation can proceed uninterrupted. Distractions in this regard are not limited to noise alone. Uncomfortable clothes, taking a break to pee, and devices such as phones that do not contribute to the process all count as distractions. Before you begin a session, be sure you can complete it without getting distracted by anything else.

 

Breathe

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This sounds very easy, but often people forget to breathe naturally, as they get so focused on the moment. This is simple and very important. Just continue to breathe naturally, and you will remain composed and balanced. Breathing also helps you to practice within your capacity and allows you to enjoy the experience.

 

To get the best results from your yoga session, do not just “go through the motions”; relax and enjoy the exercise rather than rushing through. Focus on the experience and dedicate your all when practicing. Also, before you begin or end a session, do not just jump in or out. Take some time to gradually get in the zone and do the same when you finish a session.

 

4 Simple Steps to Mindfulness In A Stressful World

The idea of being “mindful” is now just as common language as “ya all” or “selfie”. What used to be the art of paying attention has morphed into the art of mindfulness. But what exactly is mindfulness? But what does mindful mean? And I know what you are thinking. I’m not about to ask you to wear yoga pants, sit on a yoga mat, and chant the night away (although it might do a few people some good).

Dictionary.com says

mindfulness

mahynd-fuhl-nis ]
Is the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something.

Psychology.

  1. a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them: The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and physical pain.
  2. the mental state maintained by the use of this technique.

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The simple art of paying attention, being alert, present, and aware in a non-judgemental way. In yoga and mediation part of the practice is to observe, notice, and just take in. For most of us, we cannot help but float back into the past and drift off into the future when various things arise. The idea of replaying what happened, or predicting what will all while mixing in our feelings with what is.

To me, mindfulness is the practice of separating from all of that. Not to be dull and lacking in life. But the opposite. The art of seeing, feeling, and being a part of what actually is. I believe that nearly all frustration comes the moment we step out of them now. Mindfulness says stay with me, breathe and take it one breath at a time.

Mindfulness also asks us to be kind. To be kind to ourselves, to others, and to the world. [Check out The Daily Meditation and what Hope had to say about Gratitude…]

One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to apply this idea to the little things. Because it’s the little things that add up to big things over time. If you don’t want cavities when you are older, focus on brushing your teeth today, and when brushing your teeth, do just that. Treat your teeth, the action of brushing with the utmost reverence and importance. And notice how you feel afterward.

4 Simple Steps to Mindfulness

1. Start now. Start simple.

Many people decide to step into mindfulness and create this elaborate plan of how they are going to meditate 20 minutes twice a day, and go for long nature walks, and do an hour of yoga daily. Adapting all those things has never done any of them, even in the slightest is a recipe for failure. Most won’t even get out of the gate and decide that it’s too much. I prefer to focus on keeping things KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. Now I’m not insulting your intelligence, but rather suggesting we start simple.

Instead of starting to apply the practices of mindfulness when you are the most stressed, the most overwhelmed, the most distracted. Start when it’s easy, when and where you don’t have to change much of anything. When you brush your teeth, only brush your teeth. When you go to the bathroom, just go to the bathroom (I know crazy right). When you are cooking, or eating just do that one thing. Pay attention to every aspect of it. Be present. You may be surprised by how you feel after. Taking an everyday task you already to and turning it into a mindful one.

 2. Approach With An Open Mind.

We as humans like to predict. We like to know all the answers… Well most of us do. And I want to challenge you to approach one situation each day for a week with a completely open mind. Notice if you start to predict how the situation will play out in your head before it’s over. Take note if your mind has already predicted the future before anything has even happened.

Take inventory of your feelings before, during, and after and how do you feel? For me, the practice of mindfulness is not sitting on a cushion in a dark quiet room. Mindfulness is me being more present, more alert, more aware, and more engaged in what I am doing, how I am feeling, and despite all of that continuing. Mindfulness has given me more confidence in hard situations, ones I would normally avoid otherwise.

3. FOR Peace Breathing.

Pause F.O.R. Peace Breathing was introduced to me when I first started on my yoga journey. It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t complicated, and it didn’t require any equipment. All it needed was you and your willingness to step back and breathe.

When you stop and take a breath in a stressful situation, you stop the hormones released by the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and start to live again. It is a simple tool that you can use every single day to prevent and release stress when it starts to bubble up.

Steps of F.O.R. Peace Breathing

Pause F.O.R. Peace Breathing un-complicates what our minds often make complicated. It makes you STOP and use the tool you were born with to deal with stress in your life.

What Does “F.O.R.” in Peace Breathing Stand For?

1. FOCUS

Focus on one, long, deep breath. Inhale deeply, feeling your diaphragm and belly expand (not your chest). Exhale through your nose or mouth for the same count, or longer. Be fully conscious of this breath.

2. OBSERVE

Observe your mind. Does it wander during this breath? Where does it go? Can you try again to be right here, right now?

3. REFOCUS 

Refocus if you need to. Bring your mind back to your breath. If your mind wanders, return to one deep breath.

4 Ground yourself physically.

Sounds silly, but we are all a part of something greater than ourselves. And science has already proved that we are all made up of energy. And when we are in nature our bodies have a way of restoring that energy within us with the positive energy around us. Ever been around someone who you felt like just zapped the life right out of you? Have you ever gone into a building, or slept somewhere were you just felt drained the next morning. Or the opposite. You are around someone who just lifts you up. Or slept somewhere and said that was the best night’s sleep ever. That might not be a coincidence.

Today, take inventory of who and what you surround yourself with. If all you do is spend time in a concert jungle, it might be time to step out into nature. Pull off at an oasis with a small park or grassy hill. Layout in the sun, or take a bit of time and reconsider who you surround yourself with. Being mindful asks you to do things with a purpose. And that purpose may be for you to take better care of you.

Take the Mindfulness Challenge!

Do you want more practical tips for being more mindful and peaceful in a stressful world? Join our 5-day Mindfulness Virtual Challenge September 7-11, 2020! Click HERE to sign up to join us!

 

What does mindfulness mean mother trucker yoga blog

Continue down the mindfulness path to a happier and healthier you with some of Mother Trucker Yoga’s other great content!

14 Ways to Reduce Stress and Overwhelm Blog

10 Tips for a Functional Body Blog

10 Steps to Goal Setting as a Truck Driver

 

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