Take a breath

Reduce Stress by

Deep Back Breathing

The world today is more stressful than ever, and many people are searching for ways to reduce stress. Fortunately, one of the best stress reducing techniques is something you can easily do, and it requires no special tools. The key is to engage in deep back breathing.

Research is mounting that a powerful technique for stress relief is deep breathing—especially focusing on your back where your lungs are located. Just as the title implies, it’s about breathing slowly and deeply, as this reduces anxiety, controls blood pressure, improves heart rate, makes arteries more flexible, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system that reduces the body’s fight-flight-freeze response to danger and stress.

Breathing is ordinarily an involuntary act, but it is the only function through which you can influence the involuntary nervous system. The objective is to make breathing a conscious activity.

Different Types of Breathing

You can practice deep breathing in different ways. The vast majority of voice coaches refer to abdominal breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing. I have witnessed demonstrations by voice specialists having trainees lie supine on a floor and place a book on the abdomen to view the book raise and fall as the person inhales and exhales. However, this type of breathing does not fill the lungs that serve as a single unit of elastic material. The diaphragm is shaped like a parachute, umbrella, or jellyfish and lies across the body. Its action is naturally involuntary. It rises and falls depending upon the amount of air in the upper part of the body.

I refer to my own slow deep breathing as “back breathing.” When I breathe deeply, my back expands. When I practice this procedure, my respiration rate (inhaling and exhaling) is around four to five (4-5) times per minute, whereas the usual rate for adults is 12 – 15 breaths per minute.

Back Breathing

To begin teaching your body conscious “back breathing,” visualize your back expanding as you slowly inhale. Exhale slowly. Now, take a slow deep breath a second time, and again exhale slowly. Inhale slowly and deeply a third time while you focus on your back expanding. Take a moment to fully appreciate what your upper body feels like when it is full of air. By the way, this is the type of breathing many opera singers use because it provides the vocal chords with more pressure than any other breathing style.

Tip: As you become more familiar with feeling your back fully expanded, notice that any emotion calms down. The reason is that you have redirected your focus. Once you have become comfortable with the feeling of your body in a “full of air in your back” position, you are ready to use this technique regularly for its numerous advantages listed above.

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Dr. Marvin Marshall

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