How to practice deep breathing

December 9, 2008 

DEEP BREATHING is a great way for many people to relax, therapists say. Here are some techniques to help you get started:

Get in position. Try sitting up straight, with your back well supported and your shoulders relaxed, or lying on a comfortable surface.

Position your hands. If you’re a beginner, place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach to help check if you are breathing correctly. Later, you may want to rest your hands on your knees.

Breathe in through your nose. Take a deep breath, aiming to fill up your stomach like a balloon. Your chest should expand only slightly. Breathe out through your mouth. Pause for a few seconds before gradually letting your stomach deflate. Some people like to count to five or 10 as they exhale.

Don’t overdo it. Stop deep breathing if you feel dizzy, nauseous or develop a headache. You may want to start with just five or 10 breaths per session, or a minute or two total. Eventually, many people like to spend about 10 or 20 minutes on the exercise.

Clear your mind. Focus on your stomach rising and falling and the sound of air moving in and out. You can also picture a place where you feel peaceful.

Acknowledge stressful thoughts. If you get distracted, take a moment to recognize the feeling — rather than trying to ignore it — and then re-focus on breathing.

Use it in different situations. Deep breathing may help you through stressful moments such as public presentations or traffic jams. People with insomnia also may sleep better after a session.

Don’t give up. Mastering deep breathing may not be as easy as it seems.

— Alison Johnson, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

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