The Breath And The Brain
Breathing most of the time is unconscious and automatic. Consciously regulating our breath can help manage our moods, feelings and energy level.
If you observe a baby breathing, you see the inflow and outflow of air through the belly and chest. As we get older our breathing changes in response to our life experience and habits. Have you ever noticed what happens to your breath when you get tense, upset, or angry?
Simply spending a few moments breathing fully can be very calming and centring.
Try it for yourself - In a relaxed open position breathe slowly through your nose filling your lungs from bottom to top. As you do so you may feel an inner wave expanding first your belly, then rib-cage and finally into your chest.
Exhale in the same gentle slow way in the reverse direction – emptying the belly, ribs and then chest. Some people find counting the time taken to inhale and exhale helps to keep their mind focused.
Repeat these breaths 3 to 5 times, and notice how you feel.
Alternate Nostril breathing is an exceptionally relaxing, integrating practice that visibly settles the nervous system.
The alternate nostril breathing is the traditional way to help balance the left and right brain hemispheres. It increases oxygen to the cerebral tissues, helping to lower blood pressure and quiet the mind. It is known as one of the best exercises for reducing stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
Try doing five to 10 minutes of the balance breath before bed, or if you wake up in the middle of the night.
Sit in a comfortable upright position with your back straight.
With your right hand, gently close your right nostril with your thumb.
Inhale through your left nostril, and then close it with your ring finger.
Exhale though your right nostril, then inhale through the same.
Close your right nostril, open your left, and and slowly exhale.
This is one round. All breathing should be gentle and not forced.
If your raised arm aches you can put a cushion across your legs and use it to support your elbow.
Once you feel comfortable with this, count how long you take to inhale and double the count for your exhale. So if you inhale for 4 seconds exhale for 8 (or gradually increase to this if not possible initially.)
Repeat up to 12 rounds, or up to 10 minutes.