Stop stressing, start relaxing (a how to guide)
A week ago I was fortunate enough to attend the Balancing the Busy conference in Bangalow, hosted by the lovely Jody Vassallo. Two of the guest teachers on A Daily Dose of Bliss, Rachel Zinman and Caroline Cowley were speaking, along with Dr Libby Weaver, an internationally acclaimed nutritional biochemist, author and speaker.
Dr Libby spoke about nutrition, the autonomic nervous system, the Rushing Women’s Syndrome, exercise, caffeine, love and the serenity prayer, but said that her number one health tip was to simply extend the exhalation.
When we extend the out breath, the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system (PNS) kicks in. The PNS is otherwise known as the ‘rest, digest and repair’ response, and is vital for our health, healing and happiness. Conversely, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is required to save us from life threatening danger, and is otherwise known as the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response.
Our nervous system was built for us to only use the SNS if our life is in danger, but these days, we all rush around with such stress and urgency, that our bodies are fooled into thinking that our life is actually being threatened. As a result our body reduces it’s resources dedicated to healing, digestion, relaxation and libido, and instead goes about trying to save our life by increasing resources to get away from the perceived threat.
Our breath is a key way that we can move from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance. Our in breath is associated with SNS dominance, and the out breath with PNS dominance. So extending the exhalation can help us to move out of the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response, and into the ‘rest, digest and repair’ response.
Extending the exhalation is so simple. We can practice it anywhere, it takes very little time, it doesn’t require any special equipment, and best of all, it’s free!
The Extended Exhalation Breath is a practice I teach regularly in my yoga classes, in my counselling room and it’s one of the practices in my online course A Daily Dose of Bliss.
Would you like to give it a try?
Join me in the shala. Find yourself a comfortable position and press play…..
I personally love this practice at night time. I practice it lying in bed, and it helps me to drift off to sleep (hint: it’s almost impossible to get to sleep when the sympathetic nervous system is dominant).
Take a few minutes to try this practice, then leave me a comment below about how you found it. I’d love to hear about how it was for you.
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