Deep Breathing Exercises for Sleep

Sleep Deep Breathing.jpg

One of the biggest obstacles to getting to sleep is effectively shutting your mind down for the evening. Deep breathing exercises serve two purposes: They calm the central nervous system and act as a meditation to quiet the mind. While deep breathing works well on its own, it is doubly effective when combined with other relaxation techniques. Always do sleep exercises at bedtime, when you are already in bed. If you have to get up and move to the bed, you’ll wake yourself up and undo your work.

Normal Breathing

To feel a proper breath, lie on your back, and place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Breathe normally, and feel your stomach and lungs expand and contract with each breath. Try only letting your stomach expand. Then try only letting your chest expand, and explore how your lungs feel with each breath. Practicing a normal breath fosters awareness of your breathing patterns and will better prepare you for other breathing exercises.

Nose Breathing

Although some individuals are mouth breathers while sleeping, breathing through your nose is beneficial to falling asleep. Unless you are congested, practice deep breathing using your nose for inhales and your mouth for exhales. According to Dr. Marcelle Pick, breathing through your nose stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and induces relaxation. Nose breathing also conditions your breath, filtering the air and adding moisture to your breath before it enters your lungs.

Breathing & Relaxing

Progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR, is a technique in which you contract and relax different muscle groups, starting with your feet and moving up to your head. By exaggerating, then relieving, tension, you can feel when the muscle is relaxed. This exercise is best done lying on your back, but if you are congested or uncomfortable, lie on your side. Start with your toes and do one full inhale through your nose. Hold the inhale for three seconds and squeeze your toes. Release your toes and exhale through your mouth at the same time. Inhale again while flexing your feet. Hold the breath for three seconds. Continue breathing, flexing and releasing as you move up your body to your calves, thighs and so on.

Breathing With Visualization

Lie on your back with your arms relaxed at your sides. Take one full inhale through your nose, and hold it for three seconds. Slowly release your breath through your mouth. As you release your breath, imagine that the pull of gravity has increased by 1 percent, and let your body sink into the bed.

Inhale again and, with each release, let your body sink deeper into the bed. Focus only on your breath and the heaviness in your limbs. If you start to drift off to sleep, do not fight it; just let go of the breath and start breathing normally.

If you have nasal congestion, lie on your side and breathe through your mouth.

Do any of these work for you? Have any questions? Please feel free to comment below – I would love to hear your thoughts.

Click here for original article and image which appeared online at Livestrong.com.

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Looking back: Intro to Meditation Workshop 

Yesterday I held a repeat “Introduction to Meditation” workshop at Riverside Studio, and I was struck once again by how, even though everyone is so completely different, our reasons for wanting to start, or grow, a meditation practice are so similar.

“I want to find a ‘happy place’ that I can go to when I am feeling stressed out”

“Life is so rushed and can be so hard, and I need to find a way to slow down”

“I have a very close family and sometimes it’s hard to know what is my voice and what is their collective voice – I want to try and hear myself speak, or think, and find my own voice”

“There are so many demands on me as a working mother, I find it impossible to find time to look after myself”

“I often react so quickly and in the heat of the moment often say or do things that I regret – I need to find a way to be more mindful about my actions and reactions”

“I am struggling to sleep at night”

These, and so many more, are the kind of things that people cite when they sign up for the workshops. I try to make it as user-friendly and accessible as possible, because what I’m realising more and more, is that people are less interested in the potential of a meditation practice to deepen their spirituality or to help them figure out the meaning of our very existence, but desperate for a way to help them cope with the here and now of their busy lives, to find a way to slow down, to reduce stress, to find a way of relaxing and of switching off their overactive minds.

So my short workshops have changed slightly to move a fraction away from all the spiritual reasons we meditate, and to really focus more on empowering people in the short term to just begin – to just start along that potentially transformational journey of meditation – to start the very day after the workshop, for 20 minutes a day, for 21 days, and to see how it goes for them. For many people, this is all that is needed to get a taste for the potential power of this ancient practice, and for them to start feeling the benefits (more self aware, less self-critical, reporting feeling slightly less stressed, sometimes sleeping better or feeling like they can breathe better). And THEN – perhaps weeks, months or years after that, there is the potential to start tapping into the spiritual benefits of the practice. It’s like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – you can’t start trying to self-actualise if you are so stressed out you can’t even breathe! So we start with the basics, and grow it from there.

Here is a lovely message I received this morning from one of the yesterday’s attendees:

“You will be very proud of me: I had a lovely meditation this morning and am for the first time ready to do this and will keep doing it for 21 days and look forward to many more from there”.

What a champ!

Next post will be about why we avoid, don’t start, or don’t continue with a meditation practice.