Deep breathing exercise

Deep breathing exercise

Lie on your back with your knees bent. (If this feels uncomfortable place a pillow under your knees.) Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This helps you to monitor your chest and to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

B Close your eyes and breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your lower hand. The upper hand should remain as still as possible.

Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inwards as you exhale through pursed lips. Your upper hand should continue to remain as still as possible.

Practise this exercise for 5 to 10 minutes, twice a day. You may find it is rather tiring at first, but it will become easier and will eventually become automatic. Once you are used to breathing like this, practise while sitting in a chair, with your head and neck relaxed and supported, and your legs bent and in front of you.

Once you have learnt to breathe deeply, you can try visualization as a relaxation method. This involves closing your eyes and focusing your mind on whatever setting you find most relaxing: for example, this might be an idyllic beach with water lapping at your feet and the sun warming your skin. Whatever you choose, picture the scene, imagine the sounds, the sensations on your skin, even the smells that you might expect. After a while, you will find that you have cleared your mind of all but the most pleasurable sensations, and that your body has reached a level of deep relaxation and of slow, regular breathing. Some people find that a CD or tape helps them to do this.

Whatever you choose to visualize, make sure you repeat the technique on a daily basis for 20 minutes. Allow only positive thoughts into your head. Hypnotherapy is another route to this type of relaxation (133).

Some people believe that our bodies are very receptive to positive thoughts and that this can benefit our health. By imagining a positive outcome to a particular situation, they believe it is possible to reduce stress, improve overall well-being, and therefore to boost fertility. Once you have reached a relaxed physical state, you can start to send positive thoughts to every part of your body, focusing on your reproductive organs and their fertility, and visualizing exactly what you want your body to achieve, such as your ovaries releasing a ripe and healthy egg. I use this technique when helping couples to visualize an embryo implanting in the womb following IVF treatment.

This technique teaches you to recognize the tension or stress in your body by purposefully creating and releasing tension, starting at one end of your body and finishing at the other.

By noticing tension in different parts of the body, we gain awareness of when we feel tense or relaxed.

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