Breath and Relaxation

Sandi Anders, MDiv, RYT, CSC

Breath Is a Gateway to Relaxation

Exceptional and easy access to the Relaxation Response is available through focusing on the process of breathing - the foundation of most meditative practices.

Simply paying attention -- to the flow of cool air into your nostrils, down into your lungs, then observing the exhalation of the warmed air -- has a relaxing and calming effect, moving your body into the Relaxation Response.

Breath Is Both Conscious and Unconscious

The breath is unique in that it is a bodily function that occurs automatically, whether we are thinking about it or not -- and is also controllable through conscious intention. We can choose to breathe deeply, we can hold the breath, we can breathe fast or slow.

This unique attribute explains the usefulness of the breath in achieving the Relaxation Response. Through consciously focusing on the breath, we are intervening in the parasympathetic nervous system of the body, which controls other automatic responses such as heart rate and blood pressure.

Observe Your Breath and Relax

Thus the simple act of paying attention to your breath as you breathe slowly and deeply begins to lower your heart rate and stabilize your blood pressure. As you continue to do this, your endocrine system begins to reduce the amount of stress hormones it is secreting. Gradually your bodily systems are calmed and quieted as the Relaxation Response spreads throughout your body.