There are so many benefits of mindful breathing and increasing the length of the breath cycle. This is free and easy to do. It also can be done at anytime during your day! The magic is in the slowness of the breath cycle. Consciously breathing and lengthening the cycle to around 10 seconds per breath or 6 breaths per minute. This is a switch from unconscious breathing to consciously breathing and watching the breath, setting a little internal timer in your head to count the inhale and exhale length. There is some effort to slow down the inhale in a comfortable and smooth manner. However, there is no need to force out the exhale, the diaphragm has a natural rebound effect. The focus should be on the slow and smooth inhale and the slight pauses.
“Four S’s” of breathing exercises: Maintain a smooth, slow, subtle and steady breath
Each breath is unique. I encourage you to try this practice without expecting a precise count with each inhale and exhale. If you are new to this technique, I encourage you to start small. Begin with 3 to 5 cycles of the Ocean Breath and then just relax and let your unconscious breathing take over again.
Side note if you want to follow the route of your breath according to how your diaphragm works, you can do the following. As you inhale, follow the breath as it fills the upper chest (aka upper lobes of the lungs), then expands the rib cage and the finally can be felt in the belly due to the diaphragm contracting and moving slightly downward. The exhale will be the verse of this route as the diaphragm returns back to the upside down dome-shaped muscle near your low ribs.
Simple Pranayama Exercise: Ocean Breath
- Find a comfortable seated position so your spine can be long. Sit on some height like folded blankets or a cushion. If this is very uncomfortable, then practice in supported bridge pose with a block under your pelvis/sacrum.
- Inhale for 4 seconds
- Pause for 1 second
- Exhale for 4 seconds
- Pause for 1 second
- Activates your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) which is your rest/digest/recover nervous system. The great part is just your breath alone can enable this response. You may notice an increase in the saliva in your mouth and a decrease to the rate of your heart beat.
- Increases heart rate variability
- Healthy for your vagus nerve which is your pathway of information to and from the brain and organs.
- Improves baroreflex or the way your body automatically changes blood pressure
- Improves exercise tolerance. This is the reason we are encouraged to breathe through your nose slow and smooth while exercising.
- Increases blood oxygenation which means the heart does not need to work as hard since there is an increase in the amount of oxygen in the blood stream.
- The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark
- Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
- Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing by Timothy McCall
- Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson