I confess, I LOVE the holiday season! For me it starts just before Halloween, my very favorite holiday, and then I delve into the bliss of gratitude and play around with images of fall leaves in my mind as I welcome in Thanksgiving.
Well now, those two have come and past for the year, and Christmas is on its way!
But the fact remains that many of us will go through varying degree of stress, since, well; the holidays aren’t always merry and bright.
So how do you preserve your inner well-being through this emotional and often stressful time?
Seriously, I’d like to know – so tell me in the comment section please
What I suggest is a simple, effective, small thing we can all do that will release stress, and help us rise above any inner unrest.
Yes, I said breathe. But, listen just a bit more here.
When I began studying singing with one of my greatest voice teachers we would spend the first 20 to 30 minutes breathing, deepening each breath, one deeper than the one before. I would lie on my back in the voice studio next to the piano and my teacher had her hands under my back and said “try it again. BREATHE.” Exasperated, I would say, “Diana, I’m breathing. I feel it.” She wouldn’t let me stand up until she felt me breathe into my back, which is when she felt my back expand, not until then was I allowed to stand up and begin the vocal exercises. I was usually a bit light headed at that point, because I just wasn’t accustomed to taking in so much air.
After our lesson Dina would often say, “Don’t you feel better after you sing? It’s like everything in life is okay.
You know, it’s because we breathe deeply when we sing, and we release all of our emotional junk …ahhhh, let’s breathe some more.”
What is a deep breath?
Many people typically tend to breathe with shallow breaths. When we breathe deeply our shoulders will remain down and not hike up to our ears. When we breathe deeply, we breathe from our bellies (you may have heard ‘breathe from your diaphragm’) our abdomen literally expands so much that our sides and backs expand at the same time. We become balloon like.
If you’ve been breathing shallow breaths your entire life, it may take a while before you’ll feel the full balloon action happening. Just keep working towards it.
To find out if you’re a shallow breather, Put your palms against your lower abdomen and blow out all the air. Now, take a big breath:
- If your abdomen expands (balloon like) when you inhale, and air seems to flow in deeply, you’re on the right track to breathing deeply
- If your abdomen scoops inward (like sucking in your tummy) that’s a shallow breath, and most likely your shoulders reach up towards your ears.
Now let’s begin:
Either sit in a chair or lie on your back when you do this. I recommend lying on the floor.
If you have someone with you who can watch that your shoulders do not rise, and can have their hand on your back to feel your back expand, that would be great! If you don’t, then bring your mind’s attention to your shoulders, your belly, your sides and your back and see if you can be your own guide.
Take five slow deep breaths.
The reason for 5 is that you give yourself 5 opportunities to have your deepest breath.
1. Try – Put your hands on around your waist and feel what happens as you inhale. Do you feel your sides expand, your stomachs expand and do you feel your back expand?
2. Play – Play with numbers. Try breathing in for a slow count of four, pause for two counts at the top of your inhale, and exhale for a slow count of four.
On each new breath try to increase by one count, so on breath cycle number two you inhale for a slow count of four, hold for a count of two or three, and exhale for a slow count of five.
By your 5th breath you are inhaling for a slow count of nine, pause, and exhale for a slow count of nine. Do this within reason, if you feel light headed, stay with a smaller duration such as a four count. It may take you a while before you can build up to longer deeper breaths.
3. Focus – Be sure to focus just on your breath and the count. See if you can be free from excess wandering thoughts. Try visualizing the numbers as your count, give them a specific color. The more you can keep your mind focused on your breath, the less wandering thoughts you have, this strengthens your mindful state, and your ability to be completely present in the moment – connecting your mind and body.
4. Aware – Notice how you feel after your fifth breath, the one that you had a nice long count inhale, a pause, and a long count exhale.
Do you feel more centered, relaxed, and mindful of your body and thoughts?
Throughout the day, at any given moment, find moments to stop and give you the gift of 5 consecutive deep breaths.
This type of deep breathing will release a large amount of tension. It may make you feel a bit light headed if you’re not used to breathing deeply. And don’t be surprised if deep slow breaths bring tears to your eyes, it will release emotions. Let it flow out.
This type of breathing will activate a mindful state, and you’ll be more aware, more conscious, and more present in the moment. This state of mindfulness and acute awareness often lifts one up out of any negative emotions simply by bringing one’s attention to the present moment, and filling your awareness with the depth of just being in the here and now.
Feel free to do this for five or ten minutes if you wish. Or just work with the 5 deep breaths. It’s a great way to snap out of stress and other negative states of being. If you really enjoy the therapeutic nature of breathing deeply, you may want to continue beyond just 5 breath cycles.
Remember, the reason for 5 breaths, is that you give yourself 5 opportunities to have your deepest breath.
These links for more info on diaphragmatic breathing: