While my “happy place” may be in the shower, Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., believes that you don’t need to get clean to achieve the coveted state of relaxation. Dr. Weil swears to the benefits of breathing exercises, three in particular: the Stimulating Breath, the Relaxing Breath (4:7:8 Breath), and Breathing Count.
The Stimulating Breath derives itself from the traditional Indian practice of yoga, but without all the hassle of bending in oddly named ways. To do the Stimulating Breath, you need only to take short rapid breaths, broken up every 15 seconds by one deep breathing cycle (inhale and exhale). Master this, and you’ll become a more relaxed you.
The Relaxing Breath (the 4:7:8 Breath) is a truly wonderful three step breathing exercise. Before you begin, exhale deeply through your mouth, emptying your lungs. Once you’ve done that, close your mouth and inhale deeply to a mental count of 4 seconds, hold that breath for 7 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds (hence the 4:7:8). Do this three or four times and I guarantee you’ll be overcome by an intense feeling of relaxation.
Lastly is the Breath Count, a technique used by Zen monks. For this, you’ll need to get into a comfortable sitting position, let your head go at a slight incline, close your eyes and exhale deeply. Once you are comfortable, start breathing, letting the breaths come naturally. With every exhalation, count 1, and keep counting until you reach 5, at which point you start over. Count only when you exhale, and never go above 5. You’ll know the technique is working when your mind begins to wander, and you’ll find yourself ending at 8, 12, or even 19.
All 3 of these breathing exercises work wonders, but my personal favorite is the Zen Breath Count. Doing it gives me a feeling of my mind expanding and engulfing my environment. That’s my favorite, but I’m curious to hear from you, my beloved (and beautiful) readers. If you try these breathing techniques (and I strongly suggest you do), which is yours?