If you find yourself zonked out on the couch by evening time, you’ve likely been accumulating stress throughout your day. What if you could de-stress more or less as quickly as you collect stress?
If you didn’t accumulate stress through your day, how might you feel come the evening? And what if you could link de-stressing to an automatic body process?
Your body has an inbuilt de-stressing mechanism through ‘natural’ breathing whereby: the in-breath in is an active, albeit automatic, body process, followed by passive resting of your whole system as you breathe out. I like to imagine each out-breath letting go of a bubble of stress that drifts away and bursts!
Chances are you’ve over-ridden the passive resting nature of your out-breath by unwittingly keeping your body and mind stressed, and that means you miss out on the opportunity to de-stress every time you breathe out – or at least when you remember!
The Resting Breath will help you remember the natural resting function of your out-breath. It’s my interpretation of ancient breathing techniques.
The Resting Breath
- Take a deepish in-breath
- As you start to exhale, say to yourself “… and rest …”
- Just allow the out-breath to take its natural course
That’s it in a nutshell! Try a few Resting Breaths now and see what you notice …
When I do the Resting Breath I notice: an overall feeling of relief and calm, my body relaxing as my shoulders drop, and my thoughts dramatically slowing down and sometimes coming to a halt. You may notice similar, or quite different, effects.
Understanding and Refining
Once you’ve got started with the Resting Breath it helps to understand a bit more what’s going on, and refine it for more effective de-stressing.
For the inhale
When you start, your in-breath can just be an ordinary in-breath – you’ll likely notice some relief after just a couple of Resting Breaths.
For more stress relief, it helps to take a really full in-breath. This is for two reasons; first taking a really full breath is unusual for many of us, and a full breath in itself gives your whole system a welcome feeling of relief at last. Second, a full breath gives more power to your out-breath where the de-stressing occurs.
For a full in-breath, start by letting your abdomen expand to fill the bottom of your lungs, then – and this is where it goes a little further than the usual abdominal breathing – let your chest expand to fill the upper part of your lungs too. This may feel awkward at first as so many of us have become shallow chest breathers – particularly women who are in the habit of holding their tummy in, so you may need to loosening your clothing, and practice a bit.
For the exhale
Rest is the opposite of stress, and resting means no action ie doing nothing at all. I prefer the word ‘resting’ to ‘relaxing’, as many of us have learned to do things to relax. Rest is the absence of doing, so really all that happens during the exhale is to rest by doing nothing. To get more of a feel for Resting, see my Intentional Resting page.
That said, you may want to start your exhale with the intention of resting, and I find it helps to silently say to myself as I start to exhale ‘’… and rest. …”.
And one more thing; you may find yourself involuntarily making an audible sigh as you exhale. Allowing a sound to accompany your exhale also adds more power to your resting. If it’s not appropriate to actually made a noise, imagining you’re making a sound is just as effective.
Persist into a habit
At first, you’ll probably only remember to take a few Resting Breaths through your day. However, if you persist, and as you feel the benefits, you’ll find yourself remembering more often, and feeling progressively less stressed as you let go of more of those pesky stress bubbles!
Of course, you can extend your Resting Breaths whenever you have a few minutes to spare, and particularly at the end of the day to dissipate any residual accumulated stress.
- You take a deep breath in, and allow your whole system to rest as you breathe out.
- You de-stress whenever you remember to do the Resting Breath.
- You reduce the amount of stress you accumulate through your day.
- Your health benefits through periodically resting your body, emotions and mind.
- You have more energy at the end of the day!
Whenever you remember, take a Resting Breath, or two or three as time permits, and de-stress your day as you go.