Tag: breathing

Calm Your Nerves #10 – Deepen Your Exhale

exhaleNothing is more natural than breathing.

Your body thrives on the oxygen you draw in through your lungs. And your body knows exactly what to do to take a breath.

So why do you sometimes find yourself a bit short of breath, wishing you could pull in one big inhale?

A serious medical condition aside, it may surprise you to learn that it’s not so much an inability to inhale that’s keeping you from filling your lungs to capacity but rather an inability to exhale. In fact, Fritz Perls, M.D., one of the grand-daddies of body-centered psychotherapy, often noted that “Anxiety is excitement without breathing.”

Whether you’re holding your breath with anticipation or simply taking shallow breathes, the quickest way to deepen your breathing and release the tension in your ribcage (which by the by is one of the main reasons your breath became shallow in the first place) is to exhale completely.

Give it a try:

Breathe out.
When you feel you have reached your limit, push out just a little bit more air.
One way to easily do this is to imagine breathing out through a straw or blowing up a balloon. When you feel your lungs are empty give one last little blow. Make sure you’re exhaling from your chest and lungs rather than air held in your cheeks.
After that last push simply stop.
Hold your breath.
When you feel you really need to breathe, let go and allow air to enter your lungs.
Feel how much deeper and easier you are breathing.

Still not sure you’re doing it “right”? Here’s a clue. If you don’t automatically take a giant breath, chances are you’re “cheating” either by taking tiny inhalations or not allowing yourself to fully exhale. If that’s the case for you, fear not. Get an actual straw and a small cup of water. Blow bubbles continuously through the straw until your lungs ache for air. Hold your breath while you take the straw from your mouth and see what happens if you just let go and let nature take it’s course.

Notice: If you wait and let your inhalation happen automatically, your ribs will fully expand to pull air into your lungs. Your body WANTS to breathe. If you simply let it do what it already knows and wants to do, you’ll be rewarded with a much deeper breath than if you try to make your ribcage expand to inhale.

22. Two Steps Back

Eye_ChristieFred Astaire garnered much acclaim for his prowess on the dance floor. Yet his partner, Ginger Rogers, did everything Astaire did – only backwards.

Learning in reverse offers a special opportunity. Most importantly, it requires a level of focus that shifts you out of habit and puts you in control of your actions.

It is often said that hindsight is 20/20. Learning affords the perfect opportunity to put the maxim to the test.

If you are truly paying attention to what you are doing, letting go of judgment and allowing the process of learning to be “organic” as opposed to forced, you will be able repeat your actions in reverse. Doing so gives you the chance to clearly observe what you did to get to where you are.

Even if the actual action steps can’t be rewound, you can replay them in your mind – in reverse – reviewing where were your actions smooth? where unsure? where could you have made even the slightest difference?

Take a moment to slowly rewind your tape, physically if possible or in your imagination if it’s not. As you move in reverse, following the exact path you previously followed, notice what you do and what you feel each step of the way. Assess each step of your backward journey by asking yourself these questions?

Are my actions easy, smooth and effortless?

Am I struggling, pushing, tightening my jaw (or another part of my body) or holding my breath? (Note: Even if the “action” you are reviewing is not a primarily physical one, your body will give you clues that all is not as “natural” as you might presume. Look for clues to struggle by tuning in to your breathing and level of muscular tension.)

Is there any element of trying to do this “correctly” or am I simply doing what comes naturally?

Am I trying to “perform” or am I allowing myself to feel, sense and explore what is possible at this moment?

Now that I see where I am, how else could I approach what comes next?

Once you are aware of your actions and where you catch yourself holding, try the actual, forward action again – this time in slow motion. Notice what happens as you close in on the part where you start to tense. Can you pause there, back up and approach that step again and again each time making the tiniest adjustment in your action until the motion becomes smooth and easy?

If your action is not a physical one, let your breathing be your guide as you review and repeat your action in your mind. Can you find a way to once again play your tape forward making tiny tiny changes until you find you are able to breathe easily and freely as you imagine yourself doing what it is you want to do?