Stop! Now check you are breathing… or, are you holding onto your breath?
Breathing, which I’ll define as diaphragmatic breathing is incredibly important for many areas such as the management of blood pressure, reducing muscle tone and most noteworthy (and a collaborative of the two aforementioned), activating your parasympathetic nervous system. Now you all know that I’m a huge neuro-nerd! However, for the practicality of this blog I will only touch the surface of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system.
So what is your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system?
Crash course in endocrinology!
Your parasympathetic nervous system is what’s known as your ‘rest and digest’ system. A relaxation system let’s say. Your sympathetic nervous system is your ‘fight, flee and freeze’ system. And although a neat sounding alliteration. The sympathetic nervous system should only be called for during short bursts of stress (such as physical activity, complex problem solving). However, when called upon more-so and on a regular basis the sympathetic nervous system can have a downstream effect in compromising the immune system (sickness), all the way down to-your genome (RNA damage).
So you can see that being more parasympathetic over sympathetic is important! And what is an excellent prophylaxis for the parasympathetic nervous system? Diaphragmatic breathing! That’s right! I don’t have to go all spiritual on you’ll here. Just your breath!
Let’s get practical!
1. Sit in a comfortable chair, or lie supine (on your back).
2. Make sure you’re not distracted!
3. Rest your hands gently on-to the side of your ribs.
4. Inhale for a count of two seconds through the nose by breathing into your hands (notice how your ribs expand).
5. Hold the end of the two second inhale for a further two seconds (deliberate breath-hold)
6. Exhale through the mouth for the count of four. (You should notice that your ribs draw back inwards somewhat.
7. Repeat five more times.
8. Note how you feel?
Fingers crossed you’re feeling perhaps a sense of ease? Slightly calm and relaxed? A bit more mental clarity? Even a wry smile?
So there you go peeps! I didn’t use the word meditation once (this time). I simply guided you through how to breath diaphragmatically, inducing a parasympathetic response. A neat tool to use throughout ones day! Recommended when there’s an accumulation of unease.
*Disclaimer: if you are prone to orthostatic hypotension, or vertigo (BPPV). Please be mindful when standing or arising from a lying position following diaphragmatic breathing. Or consult with your GP or EP if you need-so.