Thursday, 18 December 2014

Relaxation Tip 9 - Breath

If you haven’t tried breathing yet, I thoroughly recommend it.  You will instantly feel more alive!   (David Algeo RobertsonCooper)

Now obviously we've all tried breathing, we do it every minute of every day, even when we're sleeping and we probably take it very much for granted and think very little of it.  We've been focusing on breathing quite a bit in our household at the moment as my youngest is learning how to control her breathing when swimming rather than just holding her breath.  

When we're feeling tense and stressed, our breathing tends to become more rapid and shallow.  By breathing more deeply and slowing down our breathing rhythm we can reap the benefits immediately of feeling more relaxed and calm.  With practice and over time, breathing exercises can help us to respond to stress better.

There are many different breathing techniques but here are a couple of very simple ones to try out particularly if this is something you've never tried before.

First let's start with a bit of preparation...

  • Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed.  (In time and with practice we may find that we can develop the ability to exercise these breathing techniques wherever we are by zoning out to our surrounding.)
  • Remove or loosen any tight clothing such as jackets, ties and shoes.
  • Sit in a comfortable, supportive chair and don't cross your legs or lie down.
  • Begin by focusing on your breathing and observe the natural rhythm you fall into.  You may notice that your breathing starts to slow.

  • Breathe deeply and try to fill your lungs with air.

  • Breathe in through your nose and our through your mouth.

Castle Breathing

Visualise a castle and focus on the crenelations at the top of the castle wall.

As your eye moves up one of the crenelations breathe in for two counts, as you reach the top of the crenelation, hold your breath for two counts and then breathe out as your eye traces the downy bit of the crenelation, then hold again for two counts and repeat along your imaginary castle wall regulating your breathing pattern.

Diaphragmatic Breathing
This technique may feel pretty awkward to start with and take a fair bit of concentration to get the hang of but it's worth persevering with as diaphragmatic breathing relaxes our muscles, massages our internal organs, allows more oxygen to flow through our bodies and helps us relax.

  • Place your left hand flat on your upper chest and your right hand on your stomach just below your belly button; your diaphragm.
  • Close your eyes if it helps you focus and breathe through your nose.
  • The idea here is to move your breathing from chest breathing to diaphragm breathing.  You should feel no movement in your left hand placed on your chest but your right hand should be gently rising and falling on your diaphragm. 
  • Don't force or rush your breathing just let it settle into a natural relaxed rhythm.

Rectangle Breathing
Once you feel comfortable with the technique of diaphragmatic breathing, have a go at this one.
  • Keeping your hands in place on your chest and stomach, either close your eyes and visulise a rectangle or focus on a rectangle in the room such as a door, window or picture frame.
  • Run your eyes across the top of the rectangle and breathe in for a count of 3, then as your eyes move down the long side of the rectangle breathe out for a count of 6.  
  • Continue breathing in on the short sides and out on the long sides of your rectangle.
  • You can play about with the counts on the short and long sides.  You may be able to breathe out for longer but don't force it.  Find what works for you.
  • Controlling your breathing in this way by taking air deep into your abdomen and then exhaling for longer than you breathe in will help with feeling more relaxed.
The great thing about these exercises is that we can be pretty much practice them anywhere and even just by doing them for a few minutes we'll reap the benefits.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Midweek Motivation - 10th December 2014

Relaxation Tip 8 - Get some physical activity


It will improve your health and your mood. (David Algeo RobertsonCooper)

I guess we're all pretty familiar with the benefits physical activity bring to our physical health.  The NHS weekly recommendation for 19-64 year olds to keep healthly is... 

At least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity every week (cycling or fast walking) AND muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week working all major muscle groups.


1.25 hours of vigorous intensity aerobic activity every week (running) AND muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week working all major muscle groups.

It has also been proven over and over again that there is a very strong link between our physical and mental wellbeing.  So put pretty simply as Algeo says, getting some physical activity "will improve your health and your mood".
Physical exercise can obviously lead to feeling physically tired but this natural tiredness can help us to get a better night's sleep and aid our relaxation.

Finding the right exercise for us is the key here.  If we don't enjoy it the chances of us sticking to it are slim particularly in the winter months when it's colder and darker and the warmth of the sofa seems even more inviting!  Maybe we have a try a few different things to find our fit, or try exercising with a friend to make it more fun and hopefully you'll keep each other going.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Relaxation Tip 7 - Attend relaxation-centred classes

Sometimes getting help with creating a relaxation strategy can go a long way towards your successful implementation of the habit.  (David Algeo RobertsonCooper)

The type of relaxation class you choose is obviously completely up to you.  Maybe read up a little on the different types such as breathing classes, yoga, tai chi, mindfulness, meditation to try and help you make up you mind on which one to try.

Although many of these relaxation techniques can be practiced at home, however the act of physically going to a class and being lead by an expert has numerous benefits.  The class is likely to be at a set time each week and therefore you can schedule this into your diary apposed to trying to set aside time at home which can be quite tricky as there are plenty of other distractions.  By signing up to a class you are making a very definite and positive decision, plus if there is a charge involved, then a financial commitment too!  If we're paying for something then we're more likely to fulfill our intentions.  At a class, we will be mixing with others who have the same intention as us and therefore some common ground already exists on which there's the potential to build new friendships.  Or you may have a friend who is willing to join you at the classes and going with someone else particularly to the first session can be quite a comfort.

As Algeo says, attending a class, being supported by an expert and getting help in setting up our own relaxation strategy are all ways in helping us to be successful in our aim.

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