Deep breathing helps to relax, lowering the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. It also lowers the heart rate and helps lower the blood pressure.
Deep breathing activates parasympathetic nervous system, which induces the relaxation response. There are many different breathing practices that will accomplish this, but the following technique is very powerful and easy to perform.
Find a quiet place and try the following technique:
- Sit up straight.
- Place the tip of your tongue up against the back of your front teeth. Keep it there through the entire breathing process.
- Breathe in silently through your nose to the count of four.
- Hold your breath to the count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth to the count of eight, making an audible “whoosh” sound.
- That completes one full breath. Repeat the cycle another three times, for a total of four breaths.
You can do this 4-7-8 exercise as frequently as you want throughout the day, but it’s recommended you don’t do more than four full breaths during the first month or so of practice. Later you may work your way up to eight full breath cycles at a time.
The benefits of this simple practice are enormous and work as a natural tranquilizer for your nervous system.