Simple Breathing Practices
These simple breathing techniques will serve to relax you in any perceived stressful, worrisome or anxious situation, including dental visits.
The diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle that lies at the base of the lungs and is our most efficient breathing muscle. During stressful situations this muscle rarely is engaged and in people with chronic stress the ability to take deep breaths is hindered. Engaging the diaphragm in breathing strengthens the diaphragm, makes breathing easier and increases the ability to take normal breathes so as to maximize the amount of oxygen in the blood. Try this:
- sit comfortably upright in a chair placing one hand on your chest and the other stomach
- breathe in slowly through your nose so that the hand on your stomach moves, and not the hand on your chest
- exhale through your mouth and tighten your stomach muscle on exhaling with no chest-hand movement
This breathing technique will interrupt the ‘fight or flight’ response and trigger the ‘relaxation response’. When this happens the body experiences a lowering in the stress hormone levels and the ‘fight or flight’ response decreases and ultimately stops.
Simple Deep Breathing
The secret of effect deep breathing begins with a full exhalation, so as to empty the lungs completely prior to inhaling. Proceed as follows.
- Sit in a comfortable chair with your hand on your knees
- Let a long, gentle sigh through your mouth and relax your shoulders
- Pause and breath in slowly through your nose to a count of 5
- Pause at the top of the inhalation- for a count of 2
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth- counting to 5
- Tense your belly muscles to expel all the air in the lungs
- At the bottom of the exhalation, count for 2 counts|
- Inhale slowly through your nose – to the count of 5
- Expand your belly as you inhale
- Repeat 5-10 times
Your mind might wander during this exercise, don’t worry. Just refocus on your counting. Try thinking of a happy color(like yellow) when inhaling and a droopy color (like grey) when you breath out, just to mix it up.
Counting while breathing is a little more advanced practice and is deceptively simple.
- Sit comfortably in a chair
- Tipping your chin down slightly and straightening your spine as if it was being pulled up from the back of your neck
- Gently close your eyes (or open slightly which ever feels comfortable)
- Take a few slow deep breaths
- Allow the breath to come naturally quiet and slow, remaining in abdominal breathing mode
- To begin the exercise, count ‘1’ to yourself as you exhale
- Upon the next exhale, count ‘2’ and so forth up to ‘10’
- Then begin a new cycle
Stay with counting to 10 without wandering. When you notice yourself wondering, start at one again. Remember this is not a contest for the mind to master; it is, rather, a practice to quiet the mind and in doing so you will calm the body.