Breathing is one of the best ways to relax and reduce stress.
The saying, "Stress Kills" has a lot of truth to it. I believe that how we handle stress is what "kills" and causes many of our problems in life. If you are stressed out it can constrict blood vessels, prevent restful sleep, cause indigestion issues and other health problems. It can also lead to anger and even cause depression. Stress is anything that creates mental, physical or emotional strain in our lives.
There are always going to be things in our lives that cause stress. Unfortunately, it's not possible to eliminate stressful things from happening to us. (Wouldn't life be boring without a little bit of stress?) However, you do have control of how you react to stress.
Martial artists and other warriors, such as military soldiers, are often known for their calm demeanor under extremely stressful situations. When a life or death situation occurs they must be able to quickly evaluate the threat and react instantly. They cannot freeze, hesitate or overreact. Over reaction exerts too much energy that must be conserved to successfully finish out a battle. An experienced warrior often recalls later that, in the heat of battle, things seemed to slow down. It was as if time stopped and allowed them to see each opportunity clearly. Their breathing slowed, things came into focus and their body just naturally reacted. The key to their reaction appeared to be how they handled their stress and specifically, how they breathed.
One of the best ways that I've found to relax and reduce stress is to breathe. You may be chuckling right now thinking, "I already breathe! I'd be dead if I didn't!" True. But, there are certain breathing techniques you can use to reduce stress in your life. If you get in the habit of using breath control techniques, when stressors do come into your life you will have a method of reducing the negative effects on your body.
There are many different methods of breathing. One of which, that we practice in the dojo, is slow meditative breathing. In this type of breathing you breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. It is a cleansing breath that goes deep into your belly and fully exhales out. It's a way to clear your mind before class. There are other types as well, such as in the face of danger, take a quick but deep breath through your mouth and then exhale slowly through your nose. This provides additional oxygen to your muscles.Then, the slower exhale through your nose keeps the oxygen in your body longer to give you necessary energy.
Below is a video that provides several alternative methods of breathing specifically for stress reduction. The video is produced by Sensei Roemke, who runs a dojo in Santa Cruz, California. I have no affiliation with him or his martial arts system, but I thought this particular video segment offered some excellent tips on breath control. Several of the techniques I use myself in my own personal meditations.
If you are having trouble viewing the video, you may access it directly here: http://youtu.be/ZLJ2FJnty64
I am not being endorsed by or promoting the people in this video. I have no affiliation with them. The video was screened and approved for use on this blog based solely on the benefit found in the techniques demonstrated. On January 8, 2013 the videos were found to contain appropriate content for the topic of this blog. As the videos are linked to from YouTube, and can be changed by the owners of the videos at anytime, I am not responsible for any changes or deletions made by the owners. If you find the video no longer works or is not meaningful to this blog, please contact Vashon Borich.
Vashon Borich-Leach, Sensei teaches traditional karate and tai chi in Branson, Missouri. She considers herself a life-time student of the arts. Her blog is an open journal of lessons learned in the martial arts. If you are a martial artist and would like to contribute to her blog please contact her.
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