I can help you lower your experience of stress and anxiety with simple softening meditation techniques. I will help find the best pathway for you and with gentle guidance help you naturally experience more freedom in your life.
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Diaphragm breathing lowers stress and anxiety symptoms.
1: Learn How to Breathe in Your Belly
Start by lying on the floor. Use a pillow under your head and a rolled blanket under your knees if needed. Place both your palms just below your belly button, fingers touching in the middle, pressing slightly inwards.
Now gently raise your fingers by slowly extending the lower part of your abdomen upwards. Then slowly lower it back down again, letting the breath out. Do this a few times. Notice that when the lower part of your abdomen rises up, air is drawn in through your nose and as your lower abdomen falls, air is expelled out again.
2: Gently Slow Down Your Breathing Rate
Once you have found the rhythm of breathing in your lower belly, you can start to slow down the in-breath and out-breath. It is the slowness of the movement that increases the range and strength of your diaphragm muscle. Slowing of the out-breath also helps to re-balance low C02 levels associated with stress based chest hyperventilation which is responsible for anxiety symptoms.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Effort: Be careful of over-effort or strain. Anxiety creates the desire to try to achieve, to control things within our life, including something as basic as breathing. If you notice any struggle or strain then stop what you are doing for a short while and allow yourself to relax before starting again.
Light Headedness: Because you are not used to breathing so deeply, you may experience some light-headedness due to the increased levels of C02 being absorbed. Whenever you experience this, stop the exercise and allow yourself to stay still. Generally after 10 seconds this feeling settles as C02 re-balances leaving you feeling calmer & more relaxed and you can resume your training. With regular practice this light-headed feeling gradually lessons.
***See your doctor if light-headedness persists***
Short Breaths: If breathing in your chest is normal for you then it will be natural for your diaphragm movement on your in-breath to be short. Because of the shortness of your diaphragm movement you may feel as if you are not getting enough air. If needed during the exercise you can take an extra breath.
Once the movement of your diaphragm slows down and lengthens, the feeling of needing more air will go away. By paying attention to the very beginning of the in-breath, starting it slowly, and paying attention to the very beginning of the out-breath, starting it slowly, your breathing will naturally deepen.
The most important part to focus on is learning to release the out-breath slowly. This is done to allow the depleted C02 levels caused by chest hyperventilation to re-balance and as a vehicle for deep mental relaxation during MIDL Softening Techniques.
Breathing Feels Tight: If when breathing in you feel a tightness of the breath within your lower chest, it is possible that you are breathing in from the top of your chest downwards in an attempt to push your diaphragm down into your belly. This will not work. The diaphragm is a dome and cannot be pushed down; it needs to be pulled.
It can be helpful to think of your diaphragm as an upside down plunger. When you pull the handle downward the plunger will suck in air, as you push it back up it expels it. To engage your diaphragm, think of pulling it downwards rather than pushing it. Placing your finger tips below your belly button and pressing in slightly to allow you to feel your lower abdomen move is helpful.
3: Learn to Take A Complete Breath
Once you have done 20 repetitions of breathing in your belly, the next stage is to learn to breathe from your belly up into your chest. To do this leave one palm below your belly button and place the other on the top of your chest, just below your collar bone.
Start the breath in your belly so that your lower hand begins to lift. Then bring it through your lower ribs to the top of your chest. It is helpful to push your ribs outwards a little to physically help your chest lift and open. Stress breathing lowers the flexibility of the rib cage through its lack of movement so you may need to help your chest expand in the beginning.
4: Allow Breathing to Happen Autonomously
At the end of the out-breath, allow the breath to fully go out then relax and wait. It is helpful at this stage to distract yourself from the breathing by becoming aware of the touch of your body on the floor to avoid control. Your brain will then fire a signal and take over the breathing for you. Your diaphragm will re-engage, moving freely and gently within your belly. Allow the breathing to happen autonomously in your belly with bare awareness of it.
Be careful of mental control at this time, it can be helpful to bring your attention away from the breathing and into the touch of your body on the floor.
At this stage allow your breathing to happen automatically, by itself. Notice and relax any desire to control your breathing. It is important to allow this natural, uncontrolled breathing to occur so that your brain starts to realise that this is what breathing is supposed to be like and also so that it can regulate your oxygen / carbon dioxide levels and turn off the chest, stress hyperventilation that causes the experience of anxiety.
When you have finished the meditation make a slow transition from laying down to sitting as you may in the beginning experience light headedness due to slowing your breathing rate. Sit still for 1 minute and observe the change within your mind, body and breathing.
MEDITATION INSTRUCTION SUMMARY
I recommend doing this meditation to retrain stress breathing patterns to lower the experience of anxiety 1 - 2 times per day over 3 - 4 weeks or until you notice that you naturally breathe in your belly and not in your chest.
First stage of retraining exercise
Second stage of retraining exercise
Third stage of retraining exercise
Re-engaging your diaphragm during the day breaks the stress cycle.
STRESS BREATHING PATTERNS IN DAILY LIFE
Changing your breathing patterns also has an affect on your daily life. Your sensitivity to how you are breathing during the day will increase, allowing you to notice every time stress breathing switches back on again.
It can be helpful at first, throughout the day, to ask your self one question:
“Where am I breathing now, is it in my chest or in my belly?”
If your breathing has moved up into your chest then the stress response has been switched on, you may be resisting something in your life. This is ok, it is habitual and happens automatically.
You can turn off this stress reaction by intentionally re-engaging your diaphragm in your belly. To re-engage natural, diaphragm breathing during the day, you simply place your palms just below your belly button, lightly pressing your finger tips inward. then by taking five, slow, gentle breaths in your lower belly, below your belly button, your diaphragm will re-engage in respiration.
After these three breaths you may feel a little light headed, this is normal when we re-engage the diaphragm, just allow the depleted C02 levels 10 seconds to re-balance and you will feel mental clarity and calmness return to you.
To completely remove the experience of stress & anxiety within your life, this is the game that you need to play. Throughout the day at first stress breathing patterns will come back again, you are dealing with habit. By noticing when you start stress breathing and bringing your breath from your chest by re-engaging your diaphragm you will start to decondition the habit of feeling stressed during the day. When this is supported by the breathing retraining meditation above, the experience of anxiety will gradually come to an end.
HOW TO RE_ENGAGE YOUR DIAPHRAGM
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