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Mindfulness of Breathing  Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.
This approach to mindful breathing is part of an eight-week course known as the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program (SR&RP) at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. A survey of several hundred patients who had taken the course several years earlier showed that most found that "the breathing" was the single most important thing they got from the program.
When we are mindful of our breathing, it helps us to calm the body and the mind. Then we are able to be aware of our thoughts and feelings with a greater degree of calmness and with a more discerning eye.

We are able to see things more clearly and with a larger perspective, all because we are a little more awake, a little more aware. And with this awareness comes a feeling of having more room to move, of having more options, of being free to choose effective and appropriate responses in stressful situations rather than losing our equilibrium and sense of self as a result of feeling overwhelmed, thrown off balance by our own knee-jerk reactions...  

There are two major ways of practicing mindfulness of breathing. One involves the formal discipline of making a specific time in which you stop all activity, assume a special posture, and dwell for some time in moment-to-moment awareness of the in-breath and the outbreath.

By practicing this way regularly, you naturally deepen your ability to keep your attention on the breath for a sustained period of time. This will improve your ability to concentrate in general as the mind becomes more focused and calmer, less reactive both to its own thoughts and to outside pressures.... Making time to meditate...becomes nothing other than making time to come home to your deeper self, a time of inner peace and renewal.  

The second way of practicing using the breath is to be mindful of it from time to time during the day, or even all day long, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. In this way the thread of meditative awareness, including the physical relaxation, the emotional calm, and the insight that come with it, is woven into every aspect of your daily life....

From Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., Delacorte Press, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. New York, 1990, pp. 55-57

slowly absorb the information....

Abdominal Breathing

1. Note the level of tension you're feeling. Then place one hand on your abdomen right beneath your rib cage.

2. Inhale slowly & deeply thru your nose into the "bottom" of your lungs sending the air as low down as you can. If you're breathing from your abdomen, your hand should actually rise.

Your chest should move only slightly while your abdomen expands. (In abdominal breathing, the diaphragm or the muscle that separates the lung cavity from the abdominal cavity moves downward. In so doing it causes the muscles surrounding the abdominal cavity to push outward.)

3. When you've taken in a full breath, pause for a moment & then exhale slowly through your nose or mouth, depending on your preference. Be sure to exhale fully.

As you exhale, allow your whole body to just let go (you might visualize your arms & legs going loose & limp like a rag doll).

4. Do 10 slow, full abdominal breaths.

Try to keep your breathing smooth & regular, w/out gulping in a big breath or letting your breath out all at once. It will help to slow down your breathing if you slowly count to 4 on the inhale (1-2-3-4) & then slowly count to 4 on the exhale.

Remember to pause briefly at the end of each inhalation. Count from 10 down to 1 backward, one number w/each exhalation. The process should go like this:

Slow inhale... Pause... Slow exhale (count "ten")

Slow inhale... Pause... Slow exhale (count "nine")

Slow inhale... Pause... Slow exhale (count "eight")

& so on down to 1. If you start to feel light-headed while practicing abdominal breathing, stop for 15-20 seconds & then start again. You may be breathing too quickly or gasping instead of evenly taking in and then exhaling your air.

5. Extend the exercise if you wish by doing 2 or 3 "sets" of abdominal breaths, remembering to count backward from 10 to 1 for each "set" (each exhalation counts as one number).

5 full minutes of abdominal breathing will have a pronounced effect in reducing anxiety or early symptoms of panic. Some people prefer to count from 1 to 10 instead.

Feel free to do this if it suits you.

slowly absorb the information....

personal note from me... sorry, it's kinda a topic that might not be a favorite, but it's really useful if you have irritable bowel!!!
okay.... because i like you all so much, i'll let you in on my own personal secret about abdominal breathing....
for years i experienced irritable bowel syndrome, perhaps my entire life i've had it. when i began taking effexor xr, all that stopped for the first time ever. i began to have regular bowel movements for the first time in my life. it was a very strange thing. those of you who don't have any problems in this area, you can stop reading here, except..... practice your abdominal breathing during your visits to the restroom lasting longer than 5 minutes.... (hee hee)
the point i am trying to make is, my body was trained for diarrhea only. it had no idea about normal bowel movements. i began to practice my abdominal breathing on the toilet. elimination became very easy for me. it was amazing that instead of feelng like i couldn't go, i knew i would if i just practice breathing long enough.
my son, had terrible bathroom habits. he seems to always be constipated. we've even been to the hospital a few times with it. i have taught my children, ages 9 & 11 about relaxation breathing for anything that is uncomfortable to them. my son now practices it on the toilet as well and as soon as he is relaxed.... he can go.

slowly absorb the information....

Being With Your Breath & the Stillness of the Moment
By Michael Laurenson
The cherry blossoms having fallen,
Enjoji Temple
Is quiet once more.

- Onitsura

Meditating is a simple, natural way to revitalize every cell in your body.

All that's required is a place to sit undisturbed for 10-20 minutes, once or twice a day.

You could meditate on the bus on the way to & from work but a better place would be where it's quiet.

Find a comfortable chair or cushion to sit on.

Sit comfortably.

Close your eyes & observe the natural flow of your mind . . . thoughts of what you're going to be doing that day . . . daydreams & mind wanderings.

Now bring your attention to your breath. Breathe thru your nose & begin to observe your breath as you breathe in & breathe out.

Observe whatever your breath is doing. When you notice that you're absorbed in your thoughts, bring your attention back to your breath in a natural, easy way.

Your attention is moving inward.

The center of your meditation is the breath . . .

Without any effort, your breath will become finer & finer. Your body will be deeper in rest. And your mind will awaken to the finest texture of your breath. Awaken to the sound of your breath . . . to the moisture of your breath.

Thoughts will come & go like clouds passing in the sky.

Bring your attention back to your breath.

Sit in the stillness of the moment.

Your body is in a state of deep rest & your mind is awakening.

Softening . . . relaxing . . . focusing.

Just like when you're reading a book at your favorite cafe, you'll sometimes be aware of your surroundings & sometimes will be absorbed . . . lost in another story.

In meditation, you'll sometimes be aware of a horn honking, a bird chirping, or a child laughing. And sometimes you'll be completely absorbed in the joy of settling into a state of pure clarity . . . experiencing the gap between your breath moving inward & moving outward.

Pure awareness.

You could use a timer or your intuition to let you know when 10-20 minutes is up.

Before opening your eyes, let your attention flow from your breath to your thoughts & outer surroundings. Sit or lie down for a few minutes before opening your eyes. Then open your eyes & stretch before getting up.

If you fall asleep . . .

If you fall asleep while meditating, that's a good sign that you're experiencing deeper relaxation & your body needs sleep. If you feel like taking a nap after meditating, take a nap.

As your body returns to a natural balance, you'll feel more energy & more relaxation throughout the day as you continue to meditate.

The best times to meditate are before breakfast & dinner.

You should sit to meditate but, if you aren't feeling well meditate lying down.

As good as you might feel, you shouldn't meditate longer than 30 minutes twice a day. As you continue to meditate, that good feeling will become part of the fabric of your daily experience.

Your nervous system will begin to reflect a new state of restfulness & alertness. You'll begin to feel both more relaxed & more alert in everything you do.

From the silence of your being . . . your mind & body will begin to radiate with health.

An excerpt written by Michael Laurenson from Cultivating Prostate Health - the Natural Way http://www.cultivating-prostate-health.com

Author's Bio:
Michael Laurenson's professional experience has included writing, teaching yoga and managing a restaurant

Calming Breath Exercise

The Calming Breath Exercise was adapted from the ancient discipline of yoga. It is a very efficient technique for achieving a deep state of relaxation quickly.

1. Breathing from your abdomen, inhale through your nose slowly to a count of 5 (count slowly "1... 2... 3... 4... 5" as you inhale).

2. Pause & hold your breath to a count of 5.

3. Exhale slowly, through your nose or mouth, to a count of 5 (or more if it takes you longer). Be sure to exhale fully.

4. When you've exhaled completely, take 2 breaths in your normal rhythm, then repeat Steps 1 through 3 in the cycle above.

5. Keep up the exercise for at least 3 to 5 minutes. This should involve going through at least ten cycles of in-5, hold-5, out-5.

As you continue the exercise, you may notice that you can count higher when you exhale than when you inhale. Allow these variations in your counting to occur if they do & just continue w/the exercise for up to 5 minutes.

Remember to take 2 normal breaths between each cycle. If you start to feel light-headed while practicing this exercise, stop for 30 seconds & then start again.

6. Throughout the exercise, keep your breathing smooth & regular, without gulping in breaths or breathing out suddenly.

Practice the Abdominal Breathing or Calming Breath Exercise for 5 minutes every day for at least 2 weeks. If possible, find a regular time each day to do this so that your breathing exercise becomes a habit.

Once you feel you've gained some mastery in the use of either technique, apply it when you feel stressed, anxious, or when you experience the onset of panic symptoms.
By extending your practice of either breathing exercise to a month or longer, you will begin to retrain yourself to breathe from your abdomen.
The more you can shift the center of your breathing from your chest to your abdomen, the more consistently you will feel relaxed on an ongoing basis.

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