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Breathing exercises to reduce stress

Harvard- (and Veronica Yeh-)Approved Breathing Exercises for Stress Reduction

Massage is a great therapy for loosening up knotty joints and relaxing strained muscles, but it’s not always possible to get to the massage therapist when you start feeling the tightness set in.

Americans work hard, play hard, and exercise hard so it’s helpful to employ at-home techniques to tide you over until you can get to your next massage session. Fortunately, Harvard Medical School recently provided a series of breathing exercises, just one to three minutes apiece that helps people relax and mentally de-stress.

All of the exercises are really simple, good techniques. You can perform them before a stressful event or when you finally have time to yourself. The overall impact of breathing exercises are many, but include lower blood pressure, a higher awareness of one’s physical and mental state, and reduced stress overall.

So try these Harvard- and Veronica Yeh-approved techniques, and check out the school’s health publications for more suggestions:

When you’ve got one minute

Place your hand just beneath your navel so you can feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Breathe in. Pause for a count of three. Breathe out. Pause for a count of three. Continue to breathe deeply for one minute, pausing for a count of three after each inhalation and exhalation.

Or alternatively, while sitting comfortably, take a few slow deep breaths and quietly repeat to yourself “I am” as you breathe in and “at peace” as you breathe out. Repeat slowly two or three times. Then feel your entire body relax into the support of your chair.

When you’ve got two minutes

Count down slowly from 10 to 0. With each number, take one complete breath, inhaling and exhaling. For example, breathe in deeply, saying “10” to yourself. Breathe out slowly. On your next breath, say “nine”, and so on. If you feel lightheaded, count down more slowly to space your breaths further apart. When you reach zero, you should feel more relaxed. If not, go through the exercise again.

When you’ve got three minutes

While sitting, take a break from whatever you’re doing and check your body for tension. Relax your facial muscles and allow your jaw to open slightly. Let your shoulders drop. Let your arms fall to your sides. Allow your hands to loosen so there are spaces between your fingers. Uncross your legs or ankles. Feel your thighs sink into your chair, letting your legs fall comfortably apart. Feel your shins and calves become heavier and your feet grow roots into the floor. Now breathe in slowly and breathe out slowly.

To schedule an appointment with massage therapists Veronica Yeh or James Moore, call the Capitol Rehab of Arlington office at 703-527-5492.

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