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Slow Breathing

Slow Breathing

  • This simple relaxation breathing technique can tilt your nervous system towards a calm state

This is a very effective breathing and relaxation technique. You can do it absolutely anywhere.

If you are struggle with anxiety, panic attacks or adrenal fatigue, you should find that this provides some relief.

Slow Breathing is the term that should be used when people refer to deep breathing. Deep Breathing may cause you to hyperventilate if not done properly.

As the name would imply, you breathe very slowly with this relaxation breathing technique.

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Studies of Slow Breathing

  • Your breath is powerful key your nervous system
  • You can move your nervous system from fight or flight to a calm state with your breath

In one study1, participants practiced slow breathing at a rate of 6 breaths per minute.

Here is an excerpt from the study:

  We found that paced breathing, and particularly slow breathing at 6 breaths per minute, reduces blood pressure in hypertensive patients.... indicating a change in autonomic balance, related to an absolute or relative reduction in sympathetic activity1.

A reduction in sympathetic activity indicates that their nervous system tilted towards a more calm state. i.e. away from fight or flight.

A 2010 study reviewed the impact of a yoga breathing technique called Bhramari pranayama.

Subjects were asked to inhale for 5-seconds and exhale slowly for 15-seconds, which works out to a breathing rates of 3 breaths per minute.

  After 5 minutes of this exercise, blood pressure and heart rate were recorded again. Both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure were found to be decreased with a slight fall in heart rate. Fall of diastolic pressure and mean pressure were significant. The result indicated that slow pace Bhramari pranayama for 5 minutes, induced parasympathetic dominance on cardiovascular system.2

Parasympathetic dominance means that the calm side of their nervous system became more active than the fight or flight side.

When can you do slow breathing?

  • You can use this relaxation technique almost anywhere

At first, it is going to take a lot of your attention to maintain slow breathing. But with practice, you won't even need to think about it.

It is like driving a standard transmission. At first you need to concentrate pretty hard to change gears at the right time. But with practice, you just change gears with only a tiny bit of your conscious attention.

Here are a few ideas for when you can do slow breathing:

  • During a meditation session. This is a perfect place to start. Your focus will be on slow breathing
  • While watching TV or a movie. You just need to direct a bit of your attention towards slow breathing.
  • While driving or waiting at a stop light. Unless you are just learning to drive, you should have lots of spare attention to put towards slow breathing. If you are stuck behind a slow driver, this is a much better thing to do than get angry at the driver in front of you.
  • Laying in bed trying to go to sleep.
  • While in a meeting.
  • While eating lunch or dinner. The calm side of your nervous system is often called the Rest and Digest system. So this is an excellent time to practice slow breathing.

You get the idea. Practice this just about any time you are sitting or laying down.

This one is a little harder to do when moving around. But there is another great technique you can use when you are on the move.

It involves simply moving a little slower than you normally would when doing activities. See the article:
Move in Slow Motion for more information.

How to do Slow Breathing

Well .... basically you just breath slow and steady. It is pretty simple.

But do not breath too deeply. If you breathe deeply, you may actually end up hyperventilating.

If you experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, take sudden gasps of air, those are signs you are already doing sub-conscious hyperventilation. So you don't want to reinforce it.

So breathe with your belly (diaphragmatic breathing), but do not take great big breaths.

Let go on the exhale. Drop you shoulders and sort of sink into your chair.

Other than that ... you just need a way to pace yourself.

A Way to Pace Your Breathing

  • Tools for pacing your breathing

At first, you might find it helpful to have some way to pace your breathing. Below are a three options you can try.

If you are using a PC, you can use the following:
5 Breaths per minute clock

Here is a nice instructional video for slow breathing:

Here is a metronome paced at 6 breaths per minutes :

Summary

Slow Breathing is a great adrenal fatigue treatment technique. You can do it anytime you are seated.

Good luck on your path to health.


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References

1. Slow Breathing Improves Arterial Baroreflex Sensitivity and Decreases Blood Pressure in Essential Hypertension
2. Immediate effect of a slow pace breathing exercise Bhramari pranayama on blood pressure and heart rate

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