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Breathing For Stress – How To Relax And Sleep Better At Night

Are you tired during the day and wide awake at night? Use breathing for stress relief and sleeping.

This is a very common experience and one I’m sure is familiar to you. As humans we have evolved, like most animals, to be awake during the day and to sleep at night. Our sleep cycles are governed by the day/night cycles and by the seasons. Generally we need more sleep during the winter than the summer as that is what we have evolved to expect. However, since way before the invention of the electric light, man has been extending his waking hours into the night and ignoring the natural seasonal patterns of sleep.

The Taoists of ancient China understand the importance of sleep. They aimed to live in a natural state, at one with themselves and the cyclical patterns of nature. One of the animals they emulated is the cat because it is the perfect blend of yin and yang. It is totally relaxed one second and then exploding into graceful power the next. All cats are big sleepers and will happily nap for up to 20 hours a day. This is something most of us haven’t done since we were a teenager!

breathing to help sleep

Although it is difficult, if not impossible for most of us to go to sleep when it gets dark and awake at daybreak there is something you can do that will help. It will also give you a lot more control over your energy levels and much else.

What is needed is the ability to turn up your energy levels during the day and then to turn them down again as you go to bed in the evening. Luckily there is a way. With a bit of practice, you can fine tune your energy so that you have the right amount for the right situation. You want to be buzzing with energy when you go to the gym, or that special party and then to turn down the juice when you’re relaxing in front of the TV.

So what’s the big secret?

Breathing for stress relief.

Breathing is something you almost certainly take for granted but there is an awful lot more to it than you might think. In fact our modern, Western civilisation is perhaps the only civilisation or culture in history that hasn’t studied it. Most cultures have developed breathing exercises and protocols to help balance and heal their physical and mental selves and to seek almost super-human abilities.

The science of breathing has been investigated by everyone. The ancient Greeks, the Jews, Egyptians, American Indians, Shamans, Inuits, Australian aborigines and, of course, the yogis of India and the Taoists of China. All of these groups experimented with breathing practices to control their levels of physical tension, control pain, increase their energy and speed up healing rates from sickness or injury. Breathing for stress relief was the most common way they would deal with the pressures of life. Breathing is a core part of the Chinese practice of Qigong which is both an art and a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Some people have gone a lot further with their breathing practices and used their breath to supercharge their body and mind to an extraordinary high level. They can achieve feats that most of us wouldn’t believe even if we saw them with our own eyes. The world famous Wim Hof (the Iceman) is one such example.

You could spend a lifetime focusing on and fine tuning your breathing (and several people do) but, for our purposes, lets stick to a few basics.

The breathing basics

The most important thing you need to realise is that your breathing has a major role to play in how much energy you have available to you at any time. It is simple to understand and goes like this:

Every time you breathe in you are bringing in energy into your body.
Every time you breathe out you are releasing tension with each exhalation.

In order to have a good and healthy balance of energy and lack of tension you should aim to have a balanced breath which matches a soft and slow inhalation with a similar length exhalation. All breathing, both in and out should be done through the nose. Do not breathe in or out through the mouth unless it is absolutely necessary.

breathing for stress release

To increase your energy levels simply lengthen the inhalation relative to the exhalation or, in other words, breathe in for longer than you breathe out. This will raise your energy but, if carried on too long won’t allow you to release your tensions and so you will start to feel a lot more stressed.

To release stress simply lengthen your exhalation relative to your inhalation. This will help relax you and enable you to cope with difficult situations more easily but, again, if carried on too long may drain you of energy. As always, finding a good balance is the key.

The reason why you become tired or stressed out is simply because your breathing has been hijacked by your subconscious mind which is using it to maintain the moods that your mind thinks you should be in. If you’re feeling a bit down then, well you won’t be doing much so therefore you won’t need much energy so the subconscious reduces your breathing accordingly. Similarly if you’re under pressure then you may need lots of energy to cope with the problem so your subconscious focuses on breathing in to give you the energy but this doesn’t allow you to relax enough to see the problem dispassionately. These are vicious circles and the only way out is to take back conscious control of your breathing, at least for a while.

So, focus on your breathing, lengthen each breath (without forcing anything) and use your breaths wisely to energise or relax you as necessary.

Maximise your health and fitness and control your emotions with our

Balanced Breathing Course

jade dragon school balanced breathing course

You might be interested in …

  • Work on your posture and breathing while you walk
  • Walk freely with more balance and less tension
  • Become more aware of yourself and your surroundings
  • Make every walk a richer and more enjoyable experience

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