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Breathing Yourself to Sleep by Katy Scherer

Breathing Yourself to Sleep by Katy Scherer

Breathing is an innate action of being. We don’t have to think about it, we are being breathed every minute of every day without a moment of thought. This vital function keeping us alive is often overlooked as a mere process but did you know that you can work with your breathing and even manipulate it to serve you better?

The number of people who suffer from sleep related issues is on the rise especially due to stress and anxiety. Many are turning to yoga, breathwork and pranayama to help fall asleep faster, deeper or to help with more severe cases of insomnia. Eyes are beginning to open to the possibility that breathing consciously is a natural remedy in the strive to sleep better. There are several techniques out there so we are going to talk about two to get you started. 

As with most things keeping it simple is key! Breathing practices do not need to be complicated to be effective, in fact the following two techniques are accessible to most when built up slowly. 

Relaxed abdominal breathing

Relaxed abdominal breathing, belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing is the basis for many meditation and relaxation practices. 
It can help to:

  • Increase overall relaxation
  • Calm the mind, reducing stress
  • Lower heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improve the tone of the Diaphragm
  • Increase lung capacity 


The technique

The easiest way to get started is to lie down on the back, legs slightly apart. In this position take a few deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth with a sighing sound. On every exhale you should feel the body relaxing, becoming heavier. When you feel ready, close the mouth and breathe completely through the nose.
Place both hands on the lower abdomen, letting the belly soften. With every inhale breathe intentionally into the hands letting the belly fill like a balloon and then fall naturally on the exhale. It usually takes a few breaths to get the hang of breathing only in to the belly while keeping the chest still. 
Once you feel comfortable with the breathing technique, you can add a count. Breathing into the nose feeding the belly for a count of three, and exhaling through the nose emptying the belly for a count of three. At no point should the breath become strenuous, if a three count feels stressful to the system, then go back to breathing in freely through the nose feeding and emptying the belly. As you get the hang of this practice you can remove the hand but keeping the attention in the belly. You can also work towards practicing in a seated position. 

Resonance breathing

Building upon relaxed abdominal breathing we can move in to a technique called resonance breathing.

Therapeutic breath or Resonance breathing works towards bringing our heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure, and brain wave function into a coherent frequency. This occurs naturally when we reduce our breathing rhythm to between 4-6 breaths per minute instead of the average 16-18 breaths per minute.

When we breath in resonance we are able to better balance the two wings of our autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic (active) and the parasympathetic (rest) which can help to:

  • Increases pulmonary function
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Has positive applications for anxiety and depression
  • Improves heart rate variability
  • Tones the Vagus nerve
  • Stress management
  • Improving of Asthma symptoms

The technique

The aim of the game here is to slow our breathing down in a relaxed manner. Breathing through the nose with a relaxed abdomen we begin to slow the breathing down by adding a count or 3 or 4 as we breath in and breath out. Start slow here, taking a little time to allow the breath to settle into this rhythm. This might take a few minutes. If and only if this feels comfortable then we can work on increasing the count to a 5 inhale, 5 exhale and then eventually a 6 count! When we reach a 6 count we are practicing resonance breathing. It's important to remember that resonance breathing should be relaxed so think breathing low, slow and deep. 

The beauty of both these techniques is that they can be practiced by almost everyone! The lack of retentions and the relaxed nature means that there are no contraindications however if you ever feel dizzy or unwell then stop practicing and visit your doctor. 

Please let us know how you get on!

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