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Hey Mom, Take a Deep Breath!

Deep breathing releases tension from the body and clears the mind.

Mom was right when she told you to take a deep breath and count to 10. Many therapists, doctors and yoga instructors agree. Because deep breathing releases tension from the body and clears the mind, it is an easy way to improve both your physical and mental well-being.

As we get older, we fall into a pattern of shallow breathing. It’s also not uncommon for adults to hold their breath when feeling anxious or under stress. Since shallow breathing limits your oxygen intake, it adds more stress to your body. Becoming better at deep breathing will help you to break this pattern. Here’s how.

Get in position. Sit or stand up straight, but don’t arch your back. It’s important to have good posture when taking a deep breath. If you slouch, the diaphragm and other organs are compressed, making it harder to breathe deeply.

Let your hands help. Gently rest the palms of your hands on your stomach, just above your waist. Exhale completely through your mouth.

Breathe in. Slowly breathe in through your nostrils. Let the strength of your inhalation push your hands away from your belly. Imagine that you are inflating your stomach like a balloon. Think about oxygen being pulled up from the bottom of your stomach to the middle of your chest to the upper lobes of your lungs.

Pause for a moment. Clear your mind as you hold your breath for a count of two to five.

Breathe out. Slowly and steadily breathe out through your nostrils, pushing all the air out of that balloon you just inflated. Notice how your hands move back in as you slowly contract your stomach. Your exhalation should be a little longer than inhalation.

Try it again. Don’t give up. Mastering deep breathing is not as easy as it might seem. If you are really tense and feel as though you are holding your breath, simply concentrate on following your breathing in and out.

For a better night’s sleep. Do breathing exercises lying on your back. This technique can help you relax before you go to sleep for the night or fall back asleep if you awaken in the middle of the night.

Practice makes perfect. Improve your technique while standing in line at the grocery store, sitting in traffic or waiting for the next bank teller. Take these little moments throughout the day to practice good posture and improve your deep breathing. u

Claire Yezbak Fadden is a freelance writer and dedicated yoga practitioner.

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