Relaxation: Breathing Techniques

This will be the first in our series of relaxation technique blogs. Relaxation should be an important part of anyones daily routine, as the many health benefits it delivers are easy to achieve with just a few quick and simple exercises. There’s no excuse – just read on and we’ll explain what you can do to help relax yourself at the end of a hard day, or just make it into a routine to give you a more healthy and relaxed lifestyle.

Put simply – relaxation is a way of relieving your physical or mental tension. Learning to relax will take practice – but we guarantee that the effects will be worth it. You should try to use these techniques regularly, as it will prepare your mind and body for the most stressful, anxiety producing times.

Relaxation will help you in a variety of different ways:

  • It will reduce how tired you feel.
  • It will improve your performance in work, sport, music – anything you need concentration for.
  • It can reduce pain – tension and anxiety will often cause headaches and backaches.It will help you to cope with stressful situations – especially the breathing techniques which this blog will be centred around.
  • It will improve your sleep.
  • It has a positive impact on your self-confidence.
  • It can improve your personal relationships – anxiety and stress can often have negative impacts on your relationships with people closest to you.

Breathing Techniques

Many people with stress or anxiety will tend to use their chest muscles for breathing – rather than their diaphragms. When you take in deep breaths from your abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from your lungs, you will breathe in more oxygen.

Sit in a chair and place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Most people would expect their stomach to go in when they breathe in – actually you should be noticing the opposite. the deep breathing technique we will explain to you today is a simple, yet effective way of ensuring that you are breathing through your diaphragms, and releasing pressure in your chest muscles. This will lead to you feeling more relaxed, and relieving the feelings of anxiety you may be experiencing.

The technique can be practiced almost anywhere, and is the beginning of many other relaxation practices which we will explain to you in the next few blogs. It can be combined with other relaxing elements, like scent therapy and of course – relaxation music. Just head over to our YouTube channel and select one of our meditation videos.

Deep Breathing Meditation

Practice this technique as much as possible, however you are feeling, so that you are ready to react with it in any given stressful situation. All you will need to practice this deep breathing is a place to stretch out a bit.

  1. Sit comfortably, ensuring your back is straight, and put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  2. Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise, and the hand on your chest should move very little.
  3. Exhale through your mouth and push out as much air as you can whilst contracting your stomach muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale.
  4. Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, and focus on counting slowly as you exhale.

This seems really easy – but the more stressed or anxious you feel the more likely you are to start breathing shallow breaths from your lungs. This is the factor that starts many peoples panic attacks.

If you are finding it difficult to concentrate on your breathing – there are a few other techniques you can use to focus the mind on this technique.

Mindful Breathing

When you are using the deep breathing technique, try to imagine you have a balloon in your stomach. As you breathe out – the balloon deflates, and as you breathe in it’s inflating again. Focusing your mind on an image will help you to concentrate on your breathing techniques.

You could use the thought of breathing in the scent of a flower, or blowing out a candle. It’s entirely up to you, just try to find an image that will keep your mind focused.

Colour Breathing

A lot of people will associate different feelings with colours, which is where colour therapy was adapted from. Using an element of colour therapy we can improve our concentration on our breathing techniques. Firstly – think of two colours. One which is a calming colour for you, and one which is a tense colour. Now the trick is to imagine that the colours are mists in front of you.

When you inhale – imagine breathing in the calming colour, and when you exhale imagine breathing out the tense colour. In your mind imagine that colour to be the anxiety you have been experiencing, and let your mind begin to relax.

 

 

We hope this breathing technique can help you, and keep your eyes peeled for the next in our series of relaxation blogs.
 

 

 

 

Top Ten Yoga Positions for Beginners

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, RelaxingRecords has got a meditation playlist for you. But if you are a beginner, you may want to read on for our top ten simple yet effective yoga poses. Use this hour long Zen meditation video to help you with your poses.

1.Cobblers Pose

cobbler-pose

Benefits:

  • Stretches the inner thighs, groins and knees
  • Improves circulation
  • Stimulates abdominal organs, ovaries, prostate gland and bladder
  • Improves digestive circulation.
  • Helps reduces menstrual discomfort
  • Soothes sciatica pain
  • Stimulates in your abdominal organs, bladder, kidneys and ovaries.

Method:

For the Cobbler’s pose (also known as the Bound Angle Pose or it’s Sanskrit ‘Baddha Konasana’), you will need to begin in the sitting position with your legs outstretched to the front. Bring in your heels closer to the pelvis by bending knees sideways. The soles of your feet should be pressing against each other, and your heels pressing into the rear pelvis.

Your pelvis should be parallel to the floor, and shoulder blades in a straight line with your back. Remain in this position for 1-5 minutes, and bring your legs gently back to the original position while inhaling.

2.Downward Facing Dog

downward-facing-dog-1

Benefits:

  • Relieves stress and mild depression
  • Energizes the body
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
  • Strengthens the arms and legs
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis

Method:

For the Downward Dog pose (Sanskrit name ‘Adho Mukha Svanasana’) you will need to begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Exhale as you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor, pushing your pelvis gently towards the ceiling. Begin to straighten your legs slowly, making sure you don;t lock your knees, bringing your body into the shape of an A.

Press the floor away from you, making sure you don’t move your feet any closer to your hands – keeping the extension of your whole body. To release – exhale as you gently bend your knees and go back onto your hands and knees.

3.Warrior Pose

Warrior1

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the legs and ankles
  • Stretches the groins, chest and lungs, shoulders, legs and ankles
  • Stimulates abdominal organs
  • Increases stamina
  • Relieves backaches, especially through second trimester of pregnancy
  • Therapeutic for carpal tunnel syndrome, flat feet, infertility, osteoporosis, and sciatica

Method:

There are three variations of the Warrior pose (Sanskrit name ‘Virabhadra’), but we will just focus on the first version. For this pose, you will need to start standing. Step your left foot towards the back of the mat, pushing the heel to the floor and turning your toes out slightly. Begin to bend the right knee over your ankle to a lunge pose – you may need to widen your stance for stability. Ensure your hips are pointing forward.

Bring your arms up over your head whilst inhaling, and touch your palms over your head. Hold this position, then exhale as you release your arms, and bring your legs together to an upright position.

4. Tree Pose

Vrksasana

Benefits:

  • Improves balance and stability in the legs
  • Focuses the mind
  • Strengthens the ligaments and tendon of the feet
  • Strengthens and tones the entire standing leg
  • Improves pelvic stability
  • Strengthen the bones of the hips and legs
  • Builds self-confidence and esteem

Method:

For the Tree pose (Sanskrit name ‘Vrikshasana’) you will need to start in the upright position. Bend the right knee shifting all the weight into the left leg, and turn the right knee to the right wall resting the heel against the left leg. Your shoulders should be down and your back and chest pressing forward.

Look down at the floor, focusing your mind on one particular area. Slowly slide your right foot up your left leg, as high as you can whilst maintaining your balance. Once you are balanced, bring your palms together holding the prayer position in front of your chest. Stay focused on the point on the floor to keep your balance. Once you are ready to release, exhale whilst bringing your arms down and releasing your legs to the floor.

5. Upward Facing Dog

Upward Dog

Benefits:

  • Improves posture
  • Strengthens the spine, arms, wrists
  • Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen
  • Firms the buttocks
  • Stimulates abdominal organs
  • Helps relieve mild depression, fatigue, and sciatica
  • Therapeutic for asthma

Method:

For the Upward Facing Dog (Sanskrit name Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) you will need to be laying on the floor initially. Spread fingers on both hands and press palms on the floor, directly under your shoulders. Push shoulder up, with hips dropped to the floor. Push shoulders back and press your chest forwards, reaching the crown of your head up to the ceiling.

Inhale and lift your thighs and legs off the floor by pressing the tops of your feet down. To release, bend the knees and lift your hips slowly.

6. Triangle Pose

Triangle-pose-Trikonasana-2

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the legs, knees, ankles, arms, and chest
  • Stretches and opens the hips, groins, hamstrings, and calves; shoulders, chest, and spine
  • Increases mental and physical equilibrium
  • Helps improve digestion
  • Reduces anxiety, stress, back pain and sciatica.

Method:

For the Triangle pose (Sanskrit name Trikonasana) you will need to begin in an upright position, with your feet separates comfortably wide apart. Turn your right foot outwards by 90 degrees, and your left foot in by about 15 degrees. The centre of your right heel should be aligned with the arch of your left foot. Your feet need to be pressing the ground, and your weight distributed evenly on both feet.

Bend your body to the right while exhaling, downward from the hips and keeping your waist straight. Put your left hand up into the air, while your right one reaches down to the floor, keeping both in a straight line. Rest your right hand on your shin or on the floor next to your right foot. Stretch your left arm toward the ceiling, and keep your head in an neutral position or turn slightly to the left. To release, bring your body up as you inhale, and bring your arms down to your sides and straighten your feet.

7. Seated Twist

Seated-spinal-twist_100509436-760x428

Benefits:

  • Relief in menstrual discomfort in women
  • Help in calming the brain and de-stressing
  • Stretching of spine and shoulders
  • Improvement in digestion
  • Strengthening of the groin and muscles of the legs
  • Relief from sciatica, lower back pain and neck pain
  • Improvement in the health of pregnant women
  • Improvement of the overall posture
  • Massage of the internal organs

Method:

For the Seated Twist (Sanskrit name ‘Ardha Matsyendrasana’) you will need to be sitting cross legged, stretching the spine and dropping the shoulders slightly. Inhale and bring your arms up above your head, and whilst exhaling twist your body to the right, slowly lowering your arms. Your right hand on the ground beside you, and left hand resting on the outside of your right knee. Rotate your head so you are looking over your right shoulder.

Stay in this position for 10 slow breaths, visualising yourself becoming taller as you inhale, and as you exhale twisting deeper into the pose. Your lower sine should be drawn inwards towards your stomach, making you sit tall in the pose. Repeat this for the left side, to ensure a balanced work out.

 

 

8. Bridge Pose
1ff5e92d3ddb2461_bridge.xxxlarge_1
Benefits:
  • Stretches the chest, neck, and spine
  • Calms the brain and helps alleviate stress and mild depression
  • Stimulates abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid
  • Rejuvenates tired legs
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
  • Reduces anxiety, fatigue, backache, headache, and insomnia
  • Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sinusitis

Method:

To enter the Bridge Pose (Sanskrit name ‘Setu Bandhasana’) you will need to be lying on your back with both knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor hip width apart. Slide your arms alongside your body with your palms facing down, and your fingertips touching your heels.

Press your feet to the floor, and lift your hips up whilst inhaling, rolling your spine up off the floor. Lightly squeeze your knees together to ensure they say hip width apart. Push down your arms and shoulders to lift your chest upwards, and lift your hips higher with it. To release from the pose, exhale and slowly roll the spine back down to the floor.

9. Child’s Pose

Childs-Pose

Benefits:

  • Gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles
  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue
  • Relieves back and neck pain when done with head and torso supported

Method:

Child’s Pose (Sanskrit name ‘Balasana’), is a resting pose that you can use between more difficult yoga positions. To begin Child’s Pose, you will need to be kneeling on the floor, touching your big toes together and sitting on your heels. Separate you knees about as wide as your hips. As tyou exhale, lay your torso down between your thighs, lengthening your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis. Lift the base of your head away from the back of your neck.

Lay your hands on the floor alongside you, palms up, and lightly push the fronts of your shoulders towards the floor, puling your shoulder blades wide across your back. To release from the pose, inhale as you lift from the tailbone as it presses down and into the pelvis.

10. Mountain Pose

Mountain-Pose_RESIZED-1

Benefits:

  • Improves posture
  • Strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles
  • Firms abdomen and buttocks
  • Relieves sciatica
  • Reduces flat feet

Method:

The Mountain Pose (Sanskrit name ‘Tadasana’) is the foundation for all of the standing poses, so you will need to begin stood up. Bring the feet together or hip width apart. Spread your toes wide and push them into the floor, make sure your weight feels evenly balanced through the bottom of each foot. Pull up your knee caps, squeeze your thighs and feel your hips aligned directly over the ankles. Your legs should be straight.

As you inhale lift out your waist, pressing the crown of your head up towards the ceiling. Make sure your spine feels long and straight. As you exhale, drop your shoulders down and back as you reach your fingertips down to the floor, gently pressing your chest towards the front of the room. Then inhale and push your arms up, turning your palms and bring the arms into a H position.

As you exhale again, relax the shoulders down from the ears while still reaching the crown and fingers up. To release from the pose, exhale as you bring your arms down to your sides.

Unhelpful Thinking Habits

All of us get stressed, and usually at these times our own minds are our worst enemies. We all have a habit of being negative about ourselves, putting ourselves down and being generally hard on ourselves more than on the people that surround us.

This is what we call unhelpful thinking processes, and once we can recognise these as unhelpful we can start countering them with more helpful ways of thinking.

Mental Filter

Only noticing the negatives, letting the filter get rid of any positives.

Sometimes our minds have a habit of noticing only the negatives, and act like a filter – bypassing the positives that are going on around us. As humans, negatives are always going to be more clear to see than positives.

However, we can counter this. A useful way of doing so is to have a definitive list in our heads of the positive things we have done, or positive attributes of ourselves. Whenever you have a negative thought about yourself or a situation, clear it from your mind and go back to that list – focus on the positives.

Mind Reading

Assuming we already know what other people are thinking.

Especially during stressful situations, our minds tend to wander and guess what other people are thinking about you or the situation. The reality is – none of us are mind readers.

All of us seem to care a lot about how other people are perceiving us, but no one knows us like we know ourselves. Whenever you think like this you must remember that everyone is feeling the same in situations, and they may be guessing what you are thinking too – and the likelihood is they and you are wrong!

Fortune Teller

Believing we know what will happen in the future.

Our minds tend to focus on the negatives, as we know from our mental filter process. Therefore, we will always assume that once something negative has happened once – it will happen again.

But this is something that none of us know for sure – we can’t know for a fact that this will happen again. A lot of people will avoid situations that may result in a negative outcome, and end up missing out on things that could have a positive impact in our lives. Next time your mind thinks it knows what will happen in the future, try and make yourself prove it wrong. Go and put yourself in the situation that your mind is trying to avoid – and once nothing negative happens you will have factual evidence for next time that negatives are not definite.

Compare and Despair

Seeing only good aspects of others and comparing ourselves negatively against them.

This thought process is a very common one for most people, and can be detrimental to our self belief and confidence.

However – the fact that the majority of people are guilty of this thought process makes it one of the easiest to overcome. Whenever you compare yourself to someone else, be it a friend, family member or complete stranger – just remember they are probably doing the same about you. Focus on your positives, and these are probably the things they are comparing themselves against as you think about it.

Personalisation

Blaming ourselves for events or situations that are not totally our responsibility.

We’re all guilty of it – thinking everything is our fault, blaming ourselves for every negative that has happened around us.

“What did I do wrong?”
“Could I have stopped it?”

The answers – Nothing, and no. 9/10 times you couldn’t have changed what has happened, and it wasn’t your fault in the first place. This is extremely common in times of tragedy – bereavement causes us to blame ourselves for situations that are entirely out of our control.

However it is common in day to day life too – especially in people with high levels of anxiety. Working environments are a common place for this type of thought, when something small goes wrong which may have nothing to do with you – but we still blame ourselves.

The simplicity of this thought process is that it probably isn;t your fault – and even if it is – just move on. Nothing is personal and not everything can be your fault. Think of something that you have done well recently – and replace the blaming thought with this. Remembering the positives is key here.

Shoulds and Musts

Thinking we ‘should’ and ‘must’ do things.

This is a classic case of putting too much pressure on ourselves and setting unrealistic expectations.

The key to overcoming this unhelpful thinking process is to write a to-do list every day, and learn to prioritise. What is most important. Do you HAVE to do that? Can you delegate tasks to someone else if you don’t have enough time? Remember – the more things you put on your own shoulders – the less likely you are to get those tasks right. Not everything is your responsibility – so search for the most important things and do those to the best of your ability.

Catastrophising

Imagining and believing the worst possible thing will happen.

Most common in people with anxiety, this thought process can be extremely stressful, especially in anxiety producing situations.

The reality is – the worst thing that could happen is highly doubtful. In our minds we tend to forget to focus on the facts, and we focus on the fiction that our head is telling us. Remember to stop and think when you are catastrophising – how likely is it? What is more likely?

Emotional Reasoning

Feeling anxious, so believing you are in danger.

Emotional reasoning occurs when we pay too much attention to our thoughts and fears.

“I feel bad so it must be bad.”

Going back to the Fortune Teller process – our mind does not know what will happen in the future. Therefore we cannot determine what will happen in the future based on our own emotions. So next time you feel scared, so presume something scary will happen – think back to the last time you felt scared/stressed/angry/sad. Did any of those feelings turn into a real situation? The answer is most likely no – so remember this and move forwards.

Mountains and Molehills

Exaggerating the risk of negatives and forgetting the positives.

As you can see – there is a common theme in these thought processes. Our minds have a habit of taking over with negative thoughts, and forgetting any positives.

“You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”

We’ve all heard it at some point in our lives – and the saying is a sensible one. Most of the things that we exaggerate are small, and other people may not even notice them. However our minds magnify them. Next time you have a negative thought, or something negative happens, try to pick it apart. What impact will it have on your future? Will you be thinking about that mistake tomorrow? Probably not.

Memories

Current situations conjuring distressing memories.

This happens to the majority of people that have experienced negative times in their lives. As we have said before, our minds focus on the negatives and forget the positives – meaning that certain places, scents, people or sounds can rustle up memories that will make us sad or scared, leading us to believe that the danger is here and now rather than in the past.

This is probably the hardest unhelpful thought process to conquer, as memories are not something that subside. However, the best advice we can give you is to face these places, face your fears. Once you go to that situation again and realise that the danger is no longer present – next time the memory rears it’s head you can focus on the time that nothing bad happened there. Depending on the situation this can take time, and may cause initial distress. But remember – the memory is in the past now, and it’s up to you to prove to yourself that it’s there.

We hope these thought process make it a little easier to understand what is going on inside your mind – and make you realise that you are not alone! The majority of people will think this way at some point in their lives, and there are ways to move forward and challenge your thoughts.