Full, slow breathing is among the most relaxing mindfulness practices. An effective way to slow and deepen your breathing is to pay attention to your out-breath.
While doing this practice, allow your out-breath to be longer than your in-breath. That longer out-breath will also lead to deeper breathing.
Dr Friz Perls, a pioneer of Gestalt Therapy, saw full, free (i.e. not restricted) breathing as conductive to letting ourselves approach the world with openness rather than avoidance. (See PerIs, F., Hefferline, R, & Goodman, P. (1951). Gestalt therapy. New York: Delta Publishing).
The out-breath activates the para-sympathetic nervous system which calms us down. Essentially, we go through cycles of increased and lowered arousal which can be seen in the zig-zag pattern of a heartbeat printout. The out-breath helps with the “lowered arousal” part of the cycle.
This awareness has very practical benefits. Or instance, if you are awake during the night, allow your attention to follow the out-breath all the way out; now notice the in-breath and when the in-breath has completed, follow the out-breath again all the way out. Allow your out-breath to be longer than your in-breath.
Awareness of the out-breath was being taught to Irish athletes at the time of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics by Felicity Heathcote, a sports psychologist who was also one of Ireland’s first mindfulness teachers. She wrote about her application of mindfulness meditation in Peak Performance – Zen and the sporting zone.
You’ll find many ways of practising mindful calming in my online courses.
Image by Jeremy Bishop
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