Breathing Re-training
         Dr. Mitali Srivastava
         Clinical Psychologist.

Whenever we experience stress at work or in our personal life, we get completely caught up in the pressures of the situation. We do not stop to think how it is affecting our mental, behavioral and physical functioning.

Breathing is the essence of life and proper breathing is essential for maintaining a healthy body and mind. In our normal routine life, whenever we face stressful situations our breathing gets affected immediately. Correct breathing helps to cleanse our inner body systems. Incorrect breathing leads to irregularities. These irregularities affect our physical and our mental functions. When we are under stress, physically we experience headaches, stomach upsets etc. At the same time mentally, we are not able to think straight or logically. Because of these difficulties in our thinking process, we are not able to act or behave efficiently. We end up making unwanted mistakes and errors, and sometimes also end up paying a heavy price for these mistakes.

It is therefore important that we re-train ourselves in proper, correct and full breathing techniques. If we practice these techniques regularly, we can use them under stressful conditions and avoid unnecessary complications in our life.

Thus the aim is to teach ourselves to regulate our breathing, so that we can control our thinking process and thus also control our behavior. This will help us to cope effectively under stressful situations.

Basic Breathing Exercise:

The purpose of this exercise is to re training in the process of diaphragmatic (stomach) breathing. Most people find that stomach breathing is more relaxing than thoracic (chest) breathing. This exercise is most effective when practiced several times daily for 5 to 10 minutes, especially when you are learning the technique.

•  Sit down comfortably in a chair, leaving your whole body loose and light, arms relaxed comfortably on your thighs, legs slightly apart and touching the ground.
•  Breathe out All the air in your lungs.
•  Close your eyes. Slowly breathe in, filling your lungs from the bottom up. Your abdomen should rise gently as air moves into the lungs. (Sometimes, if you're not sure you are doing it correctly, keep your one hand lightly on the abdomen to feel it rise as you breathe in.)
•  After breathing in take a pause. Count 1 to 3 while you hold your breath.
•  At this stage form the word “RELAX” in your mind and try to focus all your attention on your breath.
•  Now slowly breathe out, emptying your lungs from the top down. As you breathe out, feel yourself getting lighter. Focus on each breath as you breathe out- as if you are washing out all the tension from your body.
•  After you breathe out completely, take another pause. Once again count 1 to 3.
•  Repeat the same cycle 5 times. You will notice that each new breath that you take in gets deeper and deeper. You will also notice that as you practice these cycles of breathing, your breathing becomes rhythmic and each time you feel more and more at peace from within.
•  Don't resist any thoughts that are disturbing you. Just let the thoughts come and go. This may seem a little difficult in the beginning, but as you practice this regularly, you will be able to focus completely on your breath.
•  Remember that this process is an art that requires practice and patience.
•  Every time you practice this breathing exercise, remember to repeat the breathing cycle minimum 5 times. Beyond 5 you can continue the cycles as long as you feel comfortable.

The purpose of this technique is to develop a good, relaxing breathing method. It may be practiced anytime, especially during stressful situations.   Being a natural preventive measure for stress, there are very few side effects.  It will take some time before you observe any profound changes within your body and mind taking place, but practice diligently and patiently.  You will eventually realize that you have more energy and are much more relaxed.